Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Travel as education

I love to travel. I thoroughly enjoy visiting new places and hope that I am able to impart my enthusiasm and respect for different locations to my children. Experiencing how people beyond your own community live is a terrific way to grow, I think, and can help one understand the lives others may lead. After 4 days with an 11 year old as my sole companion, I've come to some conclusions, both about our little trip and the longer journey my boys are personally taking through life. Please indulge me as I share some thoughts...

Despite their best intentions, children are apparently unable to understand consequences on a theoretical level - they need real situations with real outcomes. I can actually see my son's eyes glaze over as I talk to him about what might have happened because of his actions. Either it happened or it didn't, that's all he can grasp at this point in his development. When I got on his case today about being aware of the impact of his actions, (in this instance he was walking a curb tightrope until he faltered and landed flatly on someone's carefully planted garden with his big skater boy sneaker), he was more annoyed with me than he was sorry for his misstep, which, of course, irritated me. I hammered him until he admitted that it was a bad idea to precariously walk so near to someone else's garden, but I could tell he still didn't get it because nothing "bad" really happened. Making a child understand the sanctity of another's space or possessions is really hard! Later in the afternoon, when I was frantically searching for the car keys so I could drive to a class at the local Y, car keys he had last been in possession of, he saw the ramifications of his carelessness. It was pretty clear that HE had been thoughtless and because of his lack of care, I was now unable to do something I wanted, I mean needed, to do. Which, in turn meant I was going to be less than happy and might mean we wouldn't be going to the movies and could cause me to be so pissed as to cancel his surfing lesson. Cause and effect, right?

The things I want most for my children aren't possessions - they are experiences. I've joked for many years that I have no intention of paying for the boys to go to college. I'll help, but I don't think it is my job as a parent to automatically sponsor their college education. For me, it is more important that I provide them with exposure to the world at large. So, I take them to as many places as I can - concerts, shows, museums, cities... Any place they have an interest in, and I have the means to get them there, is fair game. College? There are loans and part time jobs and scholarships for that, figure it out. I think the years leading up to college can, and should, be just as eye opening as four years on campus. Plus, it's way more fun to learn when there aren't papers to write or books to buy, right? Got to go - someone has a surfing lesson this afternoon!

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