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Life Lessons Learned in My Underwear

For several years now, I've told the following story as a keynote presentation when I do speaking engagements:

When our oldest son was a toddler and teething heavily, he woke up one morning at 4 screaming and crying. My wife nudged me as a reminder that it was my turn to get up with him.

All the regular attempts to get him back to sleep did not work, so I decided to take him for a drive, which had been working for about a month or so. The problem was I was wearing only a T-shirt and underwear. My ID and pants were in the bedroom where Lauren had already gone back to sleep.

If I learned anything in that first year of parenthood, it was: Never wake a sleeping baby, and more important, never, ever wake a sleeping mom.

So, in my early-morning logic, I thought no one would see us. Driving around to get him to sleep did not work that night. To make a long story short, I got pulled over for speeding.

The officer asked to see my license and registration. I told him I'd really like to show them to him, but they were at home.

That led to the dreaded question/demand:

"Would you please step out of the car, sir?"

Looking down, I admitted I had a problem with that. He leaned over to see two skinny, pale legs sticking out of a T-shirt emblazoned with: Tallahassee Men of Integrity.

He then asked if I was naked. I replied that I was wearing underwear and would be happy to show him if necessary.

He never cracked a smile.

He walked back to his car and called in my tag number to confirm that I was who I said I was. He returned and ran down the list of many violations he could charge me with, but he settled on a ticket for driving without proof of license and insurance.

His parting parenting advice:

"Next time, sir, be sure to wear your pants."

I can lift three principles for living from this story, all of which have to do with our choices.

1) Our choices have consequences.

My only intention that night was to get my crying kid to sleep. But a series of choices led me to a result I had not intended or expected. I was responsible for the outcome of my choices, regardless of what I had intended.

2) Every time we go out into the world, we are representing ourselves, our family, sometimes our job or profession.

Like my grandmother used to say, "Remember who you are." I used to think she meant something about Alzheimer's, but now I realize she was encouraging me to make choices that would represent me well.

3) We all have a story to tell, both during our lives and at the end of our lives.

Will your story be one that is worth modeling and admiring, or will it be a cautionary tale, one to avoid copying?

If you do not like the story you are telling, it's never too late to change direction. Just don't let the learning from your own experiences take too long.

If you have been doing it wrong for the last 10 years, I suggest that's long enough. Our choices become our habits; our habits become our character; our character becomes our story and destiny.

Life is full of choices. Good stories or bad stories are optional. Choose wisely.

And wear your pants.

Visit ParentingYourTeenager.com for more leading edge tips and tools from parenting coach Jeff Herring.

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