50 Life Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way

50 Life Lessons I've Learned the Hard WayKnowledge gained through trial and error may be the hardest earned, but it’s usually the longest remembered.

Last year I posted 7 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Husband, so now I’d like to share a few life lessons I’ve learned on my own. Some of these truths were acquired by accident, some due to ignorance, some because of stubbornness, but each and every lesson was learned the hard way.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the mistakes I’ve ever made. These are just the ones that immediately sprang to mind when I sat down to write this post. I’m normally a quick study — once was enough to convince me I didn’t want to make most of these mistakes a second time — but I confess it took a few repetitions before I got the message on a handful of the following maxims.

So I offer you fifty gems of practical wisdom, all gained through firsthand experience. It’s less painful to learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of making your own, so if you want to spare yourself unnecessary anguish, take note:

  1. Don’t say anything in front of a five-year-old that doesn’t bear repeating.
  2. In the eyes of a police officer, a “rolling stop” does not count as a stop at all.
  3. Never use your teeth to pry the cap off a coke bottle.
  4. Listen to your mother. She’s lived longer than you, and she’s not just talking to hear herself speak.
  5. Don’t sit down in a cow pasture without first checking the ground for fresh patties.
  6. Never play Twister with a full bladder.
  7. Pack an extra change of clothes for slumber parties (especially if you’ll be playing Twister while you’re there).
  8. Don’t ignore the engine light. If it comes on while you’re driving, pull over immediately and call your dad.
  9. Don’t circle your answers if the teacher told you to underline them.
  10. It may not seem fair, but you can actually fail a test for not following instructions, even if you get all the answers correct.
  11. If a baked potato has been sitting at room temperature for more than three hours, don’t eat it.
  12. When biking down steep hills, don’t apply the front brakes without simultaneously applying the back. And wear a helmet.
  13. If you’re no good at gymnastics, pick something else to do for the fifth grade talent show.
  14. Fair-skinned redheads should wear sunscreen at the beach. Or a turtleneck. Or both.
  15. When you jump off the high dive, check to make sure your swimsuit is still covering everything it’s supposed to cover before you climb out of the pool.
  16. If all the boys in your sixth grade class are at the deep end watching, stay away from the high dive altogether.
  17. Confirm that your ice maker is plugged in and turned on before calling a repairman.
  18. Don’t take an antihistamine when you’re nursing, if you want to keep nursing.
  19. Don’t teach a three-year-old how to operate the paper shredder.
  20. If your spouse teaches your three-year-old how to operate the paper shredder, lock up all important papers or irreplaceable files immediately and hide the key.
  21. Make sure your three-year-old doesn’t see where you hide it.
  22. Lift with your legs, not with your back.
  23. Never tell a lie, even if you know the truth will get you in trouble.
  24. Going eighteen months without getting pregnant does not mean it’s time to cancel your maternity coverage.
  25. Never store your maxi pads where your toddler can reach them.
  26. Always double-check the bathroom before letting a guest use it (especially if your toddler knows where you store your maxi-pads).
  27. If you find yourself in a turn-only lane, turn.
  28. Don’t hang all the ornaments on the same side of the Christmas tree.
  29. The longer your hair, the more important that you put it up while preparing food. Especially if a gas grill is involved.
  30. Anytime you go anywhere with children, call roll and count heads. Twice.
  31. When pulling forward out of a parking space, don’t turn too early. Let your front tires clear the car parked next to you first.
  32. If your pediatrician’s nurse tells you to leave your baby undressed until the doctor comes in to examine him, go ahead and put his diaper back on while you wait.
  33. Be careful what you pray for.
  34. Don’t assume a person who works at a beauty salon has any haircutting experience. She may normally just shampoo, so check.
  35. Those adorable shoes on the clearance rack are no bargain if they’re two sizes too small. If you don’t want blisters, leave them for someone with smaller feet.
  36. Chain-link fences are no match for a two-year-old determined to get on the other side of it.
  37. Always read the fine print.
  38. Butter toffee peanuts are not your friend, even if they do come packaged in sturdy, square, reusable containers that fit perfectly in the rack on your pantry door. The extra pounds will remain on your thighs much, much longer than the makeshift canisters will stay in your kitchen.
  39. Turn off the electricity before replacing a light switch.
  40. Never feed fried mozzarella to a two-year-old. Or cake donuts.
  41. Don’t jump in the deep end unless you know how to swim.
  42. Before leaving home for church, restaurants, or extended vacations, check your children’s feet for shoes and socks. Just because they’ve piled into the van and claim to be ready to go does not mean they’re not barefoot.
  43. Make sure the dishes in the dishwasher are clean before you put them away.
  44. It is physically impossible to separate two dogs in the act of mating, so don’t bother trying. Your children (and husband) will be much more traumatized by watching your failed attempts to get that stray mutt out of your yard than by observing nature take its course.
  45. After eating anything with poppy seeds or peppercorns, check your teeth before smiling at your date to the drama banquet. Or at his ex-girlfriend who’s seated across the table from you.
  46. Never wash a load of laundry without first checking all pockets for gum. Or Sharpie markers. Or advance purchase movie tickets. Or cell phones.
  47. Don’t let your three-year-old play with your iPhone if your Twitter account isn’t password protected (or if she’s wearing jeans with deep pockets).
  48. Don’t make your husband wait until you’re in the mood. For many women, the mood rarely hits until we’re in the middle of the act, and we’d miss out completely if we made that a prerequisite.
  49. Never use a ballpoint pen to write 38 pages of notes in the dark on the legal pad you keep beside your bed for brainstorms that come in the night. The pen could run out of ink halfway through, and you wouldn’t know it until daybreak. Use a pencil, instead.
  50. Preferably one with a lead.

I could go on… but considering my pencil lead was broken and I didn’t know it, I think I’ll stop there.

What are some lessons you’ve learned the hard way? Please share. I’m in the mood to learn from somebody else’s mistakes, instead of my own.