Julie Levine's kids have made a her into a fan of some newer music — Lizzo is one of her new faves. (Photo/Flickr-Andy Witchger CC BY 2.0)
Julie Levine's kids have made a her into a fan of some newer music — Lizzo is one of her new faves. (Photo/Flickr-Andy Witchger CC BY 2.0)

I taught my kids everything I know. Except for the stuff they taught me.

Fortunately, our kids have mastered some basic life skills. They know their way around a grocery store and the kitchen. They know how to make eye contact, shake hands and make small talk. They say please and thank you, and write thank you notes (with a little nudging). They know how much to tip at restaurants, can pack a suitcase, know how to navigate in an airport and they sort of know how to do their own laundry. They’ve held jobs, showed up on time and worked hard.

Honestly, I am surprised. There was a time when they needed me to do everything for them. I can hardly believe these are the same kids who used to cry uncontrollably. They were messy; they liked to play with their food and more of it would end up on the floor than in their mouths.

One child never wanted to wear clothes (getting dressed and out of the house was a major production) and the other was still wearing pull-ups well into kindergarten (the oldest child ever in pull-ups, I thought).

One kid cried every time I dropped them at preschool, and the other took forever to learn how to tie their shoes (I was convinced we’d be buying Velcro sneakers well into adulthood). They were both crappy sleepers and hated naps.

And then this happened: I’ve grown dependent on our kids to help me with all sorts of things. They also push me out of my comfort zone.

Samuel does more than help me in the kitchen. He saves my fails, from a tasteless marinara sauce to too-salty enchiladas. He knows exactly what each dish needs just by one taste. I fuss, adding a little of this and a little of that, and it’s still not right. He’s taught me to trust my instincts when a dish needs a little acid or a little fat.

I’ve grown dependent on our kids to help me with all sorts of things. They also push me out of my comfort zone.

Our kids are adventurous eaters. I, on the other hand, play it pretty safe when it comes to food. The kids have taught me to loosen up a little. With some encouraging, I’ve eaten ceviche at a road stand café in a fishing village in Mexico and weird flavored ice cream (I’m a vanilla and sprinkles kind of gal). I’ve come to appreciate spicy Korean food (I usually shy away from any food that’s too spicy). I’ve even tried snails (this will not be a recurrent experience).

Both kids give me much needed fashion guidance. I’m at my most comfortable in jeans and sneakers, so when it’s time to go out and get a little gussied up, I need some help. They tell me if what I’ve pulled together works and they help me choose the right shoes and accessories to match. I get out of the house a lot quicker (and a lot more confidently) when the kids are there to guide me.

They keep me relevant about music. I’d still be listening to Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac (though there’s nothing wrong with that) if they didn’t share with me not only what they are listening to but why. Now my musical tastes run the gamut from Lizzo to Chris Stapleton.

As far as technology goes, let’s just say they get it and I don’t — and that includes not only anything and everything having to do with my computer but stuff having to do with the TV and troubleshooting my phone as well.

They help me find my keys, my credit card, my wallet, my glasses! I am forever losing things.

They give me advice on all sorts of things. Their advice is sensible, practical and no-nonsense. Since when did they get so good at navigating the messiness of life?

I taught our kids, to share, to sneeze into the crook of the elbow and cover their mouth when they cough, how to fasten a button and zip up a zipper. Now, when they teach me a thing or two, they wonder how I got along before they came into this world. I wonder that too.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a Bay Area writer and the editor of the Jewish lifestyle blog Florence and Isabelle. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.