In my early 40’s, driving my blue minivan, eight and nine-year-old boys in some configuration behind me. There were two doors but only one worked and one seat was useless because I’d had to cut the seatbelt. One day, as we were driving down the freeway, my older son had twisted his seatbelt around himself, horsing around, only to have it end up wrapped around his neck. The more he fought to get it off his neck, the more it tightened. He’s screaming, so I know he’s getting oxygen. I’m yelling at him to stop screaming and wondering aloud, loudly, why he hadn’t listened to me when I told him to quit squirreling around with the seatbelt. My best friend is in the passenger seat, turned back, trying to help him, but his seatbelt had locked. She was in a panic. My younger son and my friend’s two young daughters were freaking out. I pulled off the next exit into a truck stop. I tried to calm my son, and, yes, took advantage of the teachable moment to point out repeatedly that none of this would be happening if only he’d listened to me when I tried to get him to stop clowning for the other kids, while my best friend ran into the store and asked for scissors, explaining it was urgent. She came running back and i cut the seat belt. I digress, that is not the funny part.
Goes without saying, because the fact that I drove around in a minivan says it for me, but the three of us were together in that outpost-on-wheels for many hours over several years. You could find at least one of most anything somewhere behind or under seats, in cup holders, and who-knows-what when you lifted that seat up out of the floor for extra passengers. We also had many, many conversations over time. Until they became young teenagers and quit talking to me unless absolutely necessary for an interval.
On the day in question, the kids were 8 and 9. My nine-year-old says, “Mom, what does muff mean?” Hmmm. Where is this particular conversation heading?
My answer, “It’s a round fur circle you can put your hands in to keep them warm; it’s from the olden days. We don’t have them anymore.” Thinking in my head, “Please let them be reading some historical novel in class.”
He shook his head and slowly said, “No, that’s not what it meant.”
My parenting strategy included talking openly with my sons at a level that was developmentally appropriate on any topic they brought up or questioned. “Well, sometimes people use that word to talk about a girl’s private parts.”
“No, that’s not it. At school, my teacher said, “You really muffed that one.”