Becoming the Person I Want My Kids To Be

My Childhood FAIL

Have you ever seen a kid get ridiculously excited about spending the night at a friend’s house, only to call his parents late at night begging them to bring him home?

Yes. That whimpering, sad little child was me. On SEVERAL occasions.

Aren’t little boys supposed to LOVE adventure, change, and exciting new opportunities?

If you ask my parents why I never joined the boy scouts or little league or escaped to a summer camp, they’ll tell you it’s because I never wanted to be far from home. I didn’t want to try anything new. My parents tried encouraging me to join something. ANYTHING. They just knew I’d get more out of life if I tried new experiences.

But I was having none of it. I visited Boy Scouts for . . .  a day. That was it. I remember saying no to tee ball. I actually remember feeling afraid because I didn’t understand those things. They were foreign and didn’t feel safe.

Can’t Blame My Parents

I love my parents. They had their parenting strengths and weaknesses like anyone else. But if I’m being honest with myself, I can’t blame them for my inactivity. I wanted to [shrugs], but as I look back in time I see my mom taking on sewing and gardening, and always wanting us to go camping. She tried cooking new dishes from other countries that I would summarily refuse. Something about it being foreign made it undesirable rather than intriguing.

My dad led the missions board at our local church. My mom gave driving lessons to Russian refugees. They made quite a few decisions to grow and try new things. In fact, they took a pretty big risk by renting out our house and moving to Dallas to study to become missionaries. That was the biggest cultural shift of my childhood, going from suburban comfort to more than a little scary Oak Cliff.

Our babies

Wanting Something Better for My Babies

I’ve struggled all my life to pull myself out of this inertia black hole and engage in the real world. I look around and see half a dozen or more things I wish I was good at but never really tried. And that’s just unacceptable.

If I’m not deliberate in my daily decisions, my kids will grow up thinking the laptop is the most important thing in the adult world, because they’d learn that from me. All the time I spend reading or typing or watching some form of media online. It’s no way for a child to grow up. There’s more to life than the Internet! I don’t want my kids to regret a single year of their lives, unlike entire decades of mine.

And if I want my kids to be different, I HAVE TO BE DIFFERENT. And that starts today. Well, okay, it started three months ago, but you get the point. Change is now, not tomorrow.

I began by noticing a problem. My daughter had outgrown our routine, and I hadn’t adapted. My daughter and I have a long standing tradition of Saturday morning dates at Starbucks. It was our special time away from home for the first couple years of her life. She loved it. But it’s become increasingly taxing on me and difficult to keep her from boredom.

I talked to the Lord about it because I wanted some help coming up with new ideas. Things that will engage her rather than growing stale.

I came up with Change #1.

Change #1: Take Up a New Craft Together

There are a few things I’ve always wanted to do, but never made time for: improving my guitar skills, learning how to paint, learning to sketch, build things with my own two hands. At the advice of my wife, I chose a new activity for Katie and I out of my personal interests. We took up painting.

One Saturday morning, Katie and I drove to the store and bought some watercolors, brushes, and sketch pads. We took them to Chisolm Park, sat at a shaded picnic table by the pond, and painted what we saw. Neither of our paintings turned out to resemble much of anything. But it was the most peaceful Saturday morning I’ve had all year.

Katie loved trying something new. She was fully engaged and interested, partly because I was doing it with her. And then I hurt a little, realizing that she’s aching for new experiences all the time but doesn’t have the knowledge of what’s possible to make any suggestions of her own. She depends on ME to create new experiences and to teach her how often to expect new experiences. She’s learning the whole cycle RIGHT NOW.

My hope is that by changing the cycle, Katie will live a fuller life. Instead of pointing out things for her to try, I’m trying new things with her. We’re both learning together. I’ve found that’s what she really wants… to share her delight in new discoveries with me, and to see that I REALLY delight in it too.

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