Of one-armed strollers and turkey dinners

How often do you do things without thinking about why you do them?

MH900387488 (stroller)Recently, I took my 3-year-old son out for a walk. He doesn’t usually need the stroller for these little jaunts, but today he felt like riding.  After awhile of relaxing and enjoying the scenery, he asked to get out and push. I obliged. He got behind the stroller and started pushing as best he could. The stroller veered to the right and careened to the left and got stuck in the ruts of the road. It was tough going.

I kept telling him it would be easier if he’d use both hands.

But, no – he insisted on using his right hand, and his right hand only.

Why? I wondered.

Then it occurred to me:  he was doing it the way I had taught him.

Immitation ≠ Flattery

You see, I’m a fairly tall fellow, and pushing the stroller with both arms is uncomfortable because I have to hunch my back slightly to reach the handlebar. But I found that by standing upright and just using my right hand – positioned near the left side of the handlebar – I could control the stroller fairly easily and still walk normally.

He had seen me do this, and figured that was the way it was done…and no amount of exhortation to the contrary was going to change his little steel bear trap of a mind.

This was the way dad does it, he probably reasoned, so this is the proper way to do it.

This rationale, however, is not only the bailiwick a 3-year-old.

Doing something just because someone else did it?  You’d never fall for that…

MH900409576 (turkey)I was reminded of a (supposedly true) story I heard several years ago about a young wife who was preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. When the turkey was about to be carved, several guests were surprised to see the bag of gizzards (liver, kidneys, etc.) inside the bird.  Rather than take the bag out and cook them separately, she had roasted the bag right there where it was when she bought it.

When asked why she did that, she said it was the way her mom had always cooked it. But since her guests seemed taken aback at the concept, she decided to ask her mom a few days later.

Her mom’s answer? Because that was the way her mom had always done it.

So the young wife went to her grandmother and asked again: why cook the bag of gizzards inside the turkey, instead of taking it out of the bird and cooking them separately? Her grandmother laughed and explained that it had only happened once, when the young woman’s mother was just a child – the grandmother had accidentally forgotten to take the bag out. The experience, however, had stuck with the child, and that was how she subsequently prepared every Thanksgiving turkey.  Consequently, that was how her daughter, this young wife, had learned to do it. Like mother, like daughter.

Two generations of families,preparing their Thanksgiving meals based on a mistake.

Don’t accept the premise

Don’t always accept things at face value. Some things are exactly as they seem – speeding on a highway and spitting into the wind rarely yield positive results – but there are many circumstances we come across every day that could use a closer look:
"What if?"
Do we speak a certain way because that’s the way we were told to? Are there processes or systems where we work that seem cumbersome? Are there family issues that might be resolved by trying something different?

If you’re a voice actor, do you always position your mic the same way? Is it hanging down or standing up? Do you speak to the top, to the front, to the side, which side? Do you get so close you’re eating it, or do you back off 10 inches or more?

If you don’t like poetry, is it because you can’t understand it? Is the poet writing above his/her audience? Does the poetry use antiquated language? Or do you feel like you could write the same kind of thing? Then find poetry you can understand, find poetry that’s more contemporary, or write your own!

When confronted with an issue, ask yourself why…consider an alternative…and then ask, why not?

If I’m told a client always runs a particular type of commercial, I question why I can’t completely change it around the next time.  If I’m told that something has to be done a certain way, I ask why. If I’m told, ‘that’s just the way it’s done,’ I look for answers.

Sometimes they’re good answers. Sometimes I need to come up with new ones.

Don’t settle for the answers you’re given. Don’t assume there’s only one way to do something.

And don’t roast your turkey with the giblet bag.

8 thoughts on “Of one-armed strollers and turkey dinners

  1. Janet F.

    I would like to add to your wonderful (and funny!) post something I told the parents of my students (once I was old enough to have figured it out): “never underestimate the power of your influence on your child, they watch you closely, admire and love you and will carry the lessons of your example all their lives.” Of course I was hoping to promote the better examples, because they do pick up on our flaws, too. But honestly, our little ones especially learn from our example, hence the importance of early experiences with books, language and love. And lots of poetry. Kids who have books in their homes and parents who read and read with or to them are on the road to joining the literacy “club”! LOVE the turkey/giblets story. I figured this out partly when my son, a somewhat late complete talker, started saying “no way” instead of just plain “no” as part of his early talking. LOVE the image of your son imitating you with his one arm strolling. A sign of true love, I believe.


    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Janet! Indeed, we learn from those around us – for better or worse – so it’s up to those to whom we look for guidance to provide GOOD guidance!


  2. Catherine Johnson

    It scares me what my kids copy. They are such sponges. I like what Mary said about questions, they are so important. I flipped out the other day on hearing what some kid told another kid forcing their mum to tell them things they didn’t need to know yet. That child was the same age as my son, but what can you do. People talk. Sorry going off on a tangent! Great post, Matt.


  3. Pingback: Of one-armed strollers and turkey dinners | Voiceover BlogTalk | Scoop.it

  4. Pingback: 11 Top Voiceover Blog Posts This Week - March 24, 2013 | Derek Chappell's Voiceover Blog

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