Be careful

I’m starting to forget things.  Like I can’t remember if I really wrote a post, or if i just wrote it in my head at some point when I couldn’t get to a computer. So now I am forced to search my own blog to see if I have lost my mind. Not the most comforting feeling.

So I guess what I’m saying here is, if you read something and know that you read it here before, will you kindly send me an e-mail so I can pull whichever post is the least eloquent?



Since I did a search of my own blog and didn’t see this, I will assume it’s new to you.  (And at the end you will be thinking Really? This was the post the world couldn’t live without?)

Be careful.

If I could count the number of times I say that phrase, I would be a master mathematician. I say it all the time.  When Nick is walking down stairs.  When Maggie is riding her bicycle.  When Mike leaves for work. When my mom gets on a plane to fly here.  When my dad drives here. (About the only thing that doesn’t hear Be careful from me is the rat.  Draw your own conclusion.)

And what I have recently stumbled across in one of the many books on childhood learning that I have read, those are the two most wasted words a parent can use.

What does it mean?

Not a whole lot.  It means the parent is worrying.  Or the parent sees possible danger.  It doesn’t mean much to a child.  In fact, it can be confusing.

Instead of be careful try saying exactly what you mean – Nick, walk slowly down the stairs.  Maggie, watch where you are going on your bike. Saying Be careful is a meaningless command that can startle a child into having a problem.  If Nick is going down the stairs and I tell him to be careful, he may stop what he’s doing to look at me and risk tripping by being thrown off his natural rhythm. If I tell Maggie to be careful when she’s riding her bike, she may turn to look at me and steer herself off the road.

Imagine you are working at something and someone said Be careful to you.  Do they see something you don’t see?  Do they know something you don’t know? Is there danger you should be aware of?  Are they simply concerned for you? Is this something you should not be doing? Or do a differently?

Speaking of non-eloquent.  This is coming out a bit more jumbled than the fantastic post I had written in my head.

Do you say Be careful often?  See if you notice yourself saying it, now that you are paying attention. I still catch myself saying it more than I would like. But I often also catch myself before I say it and come up with a more helpful instruction.

(Incidentally, when I searched “be careful” on my own blog, the post I was searching for did not appear since it hadn’t been written yet, but I did pull up about 10 older posts.  I might need to scratch the words “be careful” from my writing too.)


3 responses to “Be careful

  1. Brig,
    I think it’s called a phantom blog, or phlog.

    Don’t you wish there were was some kind of cerebral flash drive so we didn’t have to worry about phlogs??

  2. I say “be careful” all the time. Like a million times a day. I’m trying to reach for more descriptive words after reading this. Good advice.

  3. I’m visiting here because my dear niece Jennifer posted today and directed me here. She gave me permission to not work. If my boss asks, I can say I have written permission. Ok, I have to get back to work – but I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit. And this is a wonderful post.

    Sometime when my son was little, not wishing to put “cares” on him – and hoping it would be more like a prayer/blessing combined.. I started saying “Be safe”

    It is still much better if you can explain in more clear terms as you suggested exactly how to stay safe – but for those general “going out into the great unknown and please return to me safe and sound…” I felt pretty good with “Be safe” instead of “Be careful”.

    My mom always used to tell me to “Be smart” which as the paranoid child I was (and still am?) I always took to mean I must be acting dumb at the moment.. but maybe it was better than “be careful”. I knew for her it meant “behave” as if I tended to “not behave”.. which again I felt was a veiled criticism..

    I have no idea how my son felt about “Be safe” but if I find out, I’ll let you know.

    We also started a little tradition when I left him at the day care – my heart breaking over not having him with me.. and we would do “pingers” (“fingers”) where we put our little finger against the window glass and the other would match it with their finger on the other side. It was the “sign” for “I” – short for “I love you” and even when he was in high school we would sometimes one or the other hold up one little finger and the other would smile and do the same – with or without glass – across a room or not. It never seemed to embarrass him – either because he figured no one else would know the meaning or he’s cool enough and I’m blessed enough that he didn’t care if anyone figured out we were saying “I love you”

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