Saturday, June 20, 2009

When Our Words Turn Around and Bite Us In the Butt

My kids and I walked to Chicago All Stars sports memorabilia store (known affectionately around our house as "The Card Shop") today to browse and buy baseball cards. And by "my kids" I mean two of my own kids, plus three friends.

The owner is a friendly guy named Ronnie, and he told me that he started his business when he was nine years old. Nine. That's when he started collecting baseball cards, and decided that he wanted to open his own memorabilia shop. It didn't happen for many, many years--but I admire his tenacity and vision. His store is the epitome of the American Dream.

(If you clicked on the link, you may have noticed that Ronnie's web site needs some work. The site does not do justice to the quantity and quality of his multi-sport memorabilia inventory. Plus, he's got a replica of The Great Wall--the ivy-covered brick wall in center field at Wrigley--in the shop, complete with baseballs trapped in the grate above the ivy. If you're looking for a gift for a sports fan, this place is worth the trip; and this is not a paid endorsement.)

Most of the kids bought cards, and M. Peevie also purchased a binder for her baseball card collection. (Ronnie threw in some free plastic pocket pages to get her started.) She could barely wait to get home so she could start loading the cards into the pages.

I walked into the room when M.P. had started sorting through her plastic Dominick's bag of baseball cards and inserting them randomly into the plastic sleeves.

"M. Peevie," I suggested, "Why don't you put your more valuable cards in first?"

"Why?" she asked.

"Because it makes sense to make sure your more valuable cards are protected before you protect your less valuable cards," I explained.

"But why do you care so much," she asked.

I was a little taken aback.
"I don't really care," I said. "I was just making a suggestion."

And here's where I learned that apparently she does listen to what I say. Sometimes.

"But mom," she said earnestly, and without a trace of disrespect, "I didn't ask you for advice. You always say, don't give people advice unless they ask you for advice."

I was flummoxed. She was absolutely right: I do say that. I hate being on the receiving end of unsolicited advice.

"You're right, M.," I admitted, "I do say that. And in general, I think it's a good rule." I was going to add something about the situation between parents and minor children being a bit of an exception to the rule, but in the end I decided that I did not have the energy to take the conversation in that direction.

"You go ahead and put your cards in the binder however you want," I said instead. I felt proud that her eight-year-old self cleverly made the connection between my suggestion about the cards and our long-ago conversation in which I told her that her advice-giving, though no-doubt motivated by love and helpfulness, might not be well-received.

I think she's going to be a lawyer someday. She will give advice all day long, and people will pay her for it.

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