Thursday, August 14, 2014

Offerings for the Offspring

High ropes challenge course part one at The Summit.

The ever present universal debate on how to best raise kids seems to be coming to the forefront again, or else we are all tired of hearing about healthcare, celebrities and food fads. On our recent road trip, the radio, some magazines, social media and a local newspaper, had segments on (5, 10, 20 etc….take your choice) things to teach your kids. Granted, they were not exactly the same things but the overall idea was essentially consistent.

My husband and I got a good laugh out of most of them because we were raised in the “unconnected” generation. Some call us boomers, not in the sense of population growth, but in the sense that we went “boom” a lot.  No seatbelts, no bike helmets, no car seats, no special shoes for woodland exploration, no hands on the handlebars, playground equipment installed over asphalt,….that kind of stuff which would sometimes result in accidental contact with the cement. A little spit or some garden hose water would wipe away the blood and gravel and off we’d go.  When the streetlights came on, one went home. Nobody worried all that much about where we were, they wanted to know if we had had fun.

Now don’t get all up in my face about how the world has changed and it is no longer safe….it was probably not too safe back then either, we just didn’t know it. We learned about safety by trial and error, something kids don’t get to do much these days. Yes, we got hurt or burned (singed is more like it) or lost or scraped or punctured or bit or scared., but we learned what to do or how to react and cope without our parents having to intervene and take the pain so to speak.  In school, we did our work. There was no access to some online resource to see if we turned in a paper or when our tests were or what the content of an assignment would be, like parents have today and whom some seem to check daily to keep track of their child’s progress. We learned time management and consequence on our own. I bought into that whole idea when my kids were in middle school (boomer era junior high) and quit. It was not my job to do the work on time, it was theirs. I had done my time, I had daredevil stuff to do while they were in school like cutting the grass with no socks on or using spray paint without a mask.

So what were some of the top five things according to the experts that we should make sure our children experience? Turns out that our scouting years covered them all and then some….be prepared is not just an empty phrase. I will share the experts’ list in no particular order then add a few of my own. Why? Because many of my friends are facing the empty nest come next week and I think a few of them are very unprepared, the parents that is, not their kids.

One, let your kids play with fire. Yep, very important because then a kid learns to respect its power and the mystic of matches goes away. Flick a lighter, use matches to light a campfire, burn some sticks, throw other materials onto the fire to see how they react and so forth. Fire is dangerous if you don’t understand it so take away the drama and fascination and mystery. A second degree burn will pretty much keep the interest level down and only leave a scar. Good way to learn about first aid too.

Two, let your child own a pocket knife and use it. Yep, very important because a kid learns that sharp things will cut you but if used respectfully, can be very handy. Our dads all carried them and mine still pulls one out to fix just about anything. Too bad the thing can also land him in jail now for carrying it in the wrong locations. Great way to learn first aid for wounds that bleed and knowing what cuts require  stitches and what is okay with some pressure and elevation (or spit and a candy bar wrapper bandage).

Three, learn to throw a spear. We called that lawn jarts. Not only does one learn to throw, but to also check the target area. Those not throwing at the time learn to get their butt out of the way. Great way to learn first aid for puncture wounds. Nobody ever had to warn the dog to get out of the way because they are smarter than people.

Four, allow your kids to take something apart. Usually old appliances would be allowed however I recall a few things coming apart that were supposed to put back together but never quite worked the same way afterwards. Hmmm….good thing my brother had a sister to blame for that one. Give the kids access to hand tools of all kids (hammers are a blast and teach you to move your fingers out of the way…or are a great way to learn first aid for things needing splints). Power tools are fun too! Learning how to use a saw, a drill, and other potentially “dangerous” things take away the mystery and build confidence and comfort. Saw off some branches to build a fire and maybe even throw a sharp stick towards the wood pile!

Number five was to let your kids drive while little, meaning put them on your lap with their hands over yours on the steering wheel and “drive” or steer the car. Okay, after you get out of jail and go through the courts to get your kids back from CPS, do it in a parking lot away from people who might see you. It teaches them to see how driving a car requires some concentration so when a request for quiet from the back seat is made (regardless of tone of voice), the kid knows why. Take the mystery out of what is so special about being behind the wheel.

There were other things suggested in the various articles, but the overall idea was the same. Experience life without fears, rules and restrictions to build confidence and character. I would like to add a few more ideas to the list….

1.       Teach your child to speak to an adult appropriately. I could do a whole four page blog on that topic alone. If you want to hear that one, let me know, I’d be happy to vent!

2.       Teach your child to leave a phone message on an answering machine or voice mail. Translation: say your name slowly and clearly, say why you are calling, and say your number SLOWLY and clearly and then your name again. (and to say thank you before hanging up).

3.       Teach your child to do laundry and how to iron clothing. When that job interview comes up suddenly, is mommy going to drive 4 hours to iron your shirt? Hell no.

4.       Teach your child to use a stove and an oven, not just a microwave. Cooking teaches time management, measurement, and patience as well as budgeting and provides a lifelong skill. 

5.       Teach your child not to be afraid to make a mistake, that it is okay to fail at something, it is okay to be embarrassed by something, and that most people are not paying attention to you, they have their own issues and worries.

6.       Teach your child to be flexible. Traveling with kids is a great way for them to learn that trait.

7.       Teach them how to write their signature…NOT a printed letter by letter kind, but a continuous line cursive version of their own name. When they become famous and have to write their autograph, it is faster to do so without looking like a five year old.

8.       Teach your child time management and accountability. Don’t wake them up, don’t check their grades, don’t read their mail, don’t ask if they paid the rent and their bills every month…expect them to just do these things and if they don’t, well…consequences provide lots of experience. Always be there to bail them out if needed so they know they can rely on you, but don’t’ let them depend upon you. They are adults…so are you. Do your parents do these things for you?

Okay, enough of my own list. That too could be a four page blog. I said my friends were not ready for the empty nest….some are horrified to learn I don’t talk to my kids every day. Why would I? They are adults. If the phone is not ringing, no police, no hospital, no odd hours, I just believe that all is okay in their world. I trust they are not burning things down, throwing sharp objects off the balcony or taking apart their coffee maker for fun

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