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They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

November 11, 2014

As I sat in the carpool line the other day to drop Brynna at school, a woman in a minivan pushed the light. She got into the intersection but the line inching along in front of the school hadn’t moved enough for her to get out of the way of cross traffic. I watched a whole line of cars back up, unable to  pass through the intersection because she was stuck in the way.

SIDE NOTE: Can we observe a moment of silence for the poor, defenseless people who have the misfortune of getting through a school zone just to get to work? They bought that house in the summer when traffic moved along smoothly. They were blind-sided when school started and it added 10 minutes to their drive just trying to get through the stop light at the entrance of the school. And that’s not the mention the innocent person who doesn’t even live down this street and didn’t know you have to get in the left lane to go straight because the right lane won’t move until they’re able to pull into the school line. I’m sorry, folks. 


Anyway. Back to the minivan lady…all those people waiting in line as they’re supposed to were forced to sit through yet another red light, while she eventually pulled up and dropped off little Timmy without paying a bit of attention to the 50 people her decision affected. As she pulled into the intersection initially and I could tell she was going to cause a traffic jam, I said “How selfish was that?”

Selfishness is a hot ticket item for me lately. We’ll call it a “touchy subject.” I have a 5 year old, which means I have a small person taking up residence in my house who believes the sun literally rises and sets just for her. She’s convinced that the earth doesn’t spin on an axis but on her tiny finger. The other day she called for me while I was in the bathroom. I didn’t come (for obvious reasons), and when I did finally walk in the kitchen, she said “I was calling you. Can you hand me my eraser?” The eraser was on the counter 3 FEET FROM HER. I was on the other side of the house. This child sat at the table for an extra 5 minutes waiting for me to hand her something because (and I quote) “her legs were just so tired from sitting.” THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE!

I said it was touchy…

So as we sat in that carpool line and I saw yet another example of selfishness, a blatant disregard for those around her – by an adult, I might add – I was annoyed. (This is my way of admitting that I may have spoken slightly louder than usual.) And then a voice asked from the backseat, “What’s that mean? What’s selfish?”

The topic has been bothering me so much lately that at first it was like nails on a chalkboard. Seriously?! This from the poster child for selfishness?! She obviously knows what it is to be selfish. She’s a professional at it. But then I had a little pang of guilt as I realized how often I can be the poster child. Selfishness doesn’t have to be taught. We are born perfectly capable of thinking of what we want, what we need, where we want to go, what someone else can do for us… It’s not a skill but a default that has to be bypassed. The skill is learning to think counter to the natural, easy way of doing things. It’s thinking of others that has to be taught. But she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. It never dawned on her to ask “Mom, how do I think more of others than myself?” It never crossed her mind to wonder how her actions affect those around her.


This is what I realized: Brynna doesn’t act selfish maliciously. She didn’t even know the meaning of the word. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. Her selfishness is not intentional. She’s not a bad kid. Neither are yours. I’m not a bad mom. You aren’t failing. We are just in process. They don’t know what they don’t know. We are teaching them. Some days those lessons sink in better than others, but we keep teaching. Some days we see more fruit for our labor; we keep teaching.

They don’t know what they don’t know. BUT YOU DO. So love them, teach them, give them grace, show them how to forgive, correct their selfishness… And know that you’ll likely have to repeat it all again tomorrow.

They don’t know what they don’t know. BUT YOU DO SO THEY WILL. 

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  • Reply Brandy Davis November 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

    What a great message! I never thought of it that way. They really don’t realize…hmm…thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Regina November 11, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who realizes this stuff for the first time. :o)

  • Reply Vikki December 21, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    So true! Now, how do I get the lesson to sink in the FIRST time I say it??

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