I have lived in both an urban and rural setting. With children of my own and their friends, I have watched many of them as they make their tentative ‘first steps’ through life. I have seen them at play; I have seen them at work. I have seen them create whole new worlds with just a few threads of imagination to start with; I have seen them struggle relentlessly with hours of homework in one evening. And I am of the generation that has watched our children shift from imaginary sword fights and games of hide-and-seek to a chair in the bedroom with only a gaming system and television for company.
I have also watched other children who have grown up with a list of chores they were required to accomplish before going outside to play. Some of those chores included helping with meals at least once a week, cleaning, yard work and other basic home chores. I have seen the pride on a young girl as she showed me the apron she made during a sewing lesson with her grandmother. I still have the old bachelor’s chest that I bought at a junk shop – the one my ten-year-old son helped to strip and refinish. Complete with a wire brush to get down in all those tiny scroll-work grooves. To me, these are the children, who are now young adults that are living a better balanced life with a more realistic view of the world. Most of them have no expectations of seeing a silver platter piled high with all of their wants and wishes being handed to them. I even met a young girl who had several ‘piggy banks’ that were full, waiting for the day she could apply those funds to college. Birthday and Christmas money, babysitting money, and any other income from odd jobs was put aside for her one dream of furthering her education.
I worry about our younger generations. It amazes me how many of them don’t have the skills to make a meal from scratch, sew on a button, clean house, or create a budget – much less manage their money. Too many of them don’t even know how to spell – last I checked, ‘Thx’ does NOT spell ‘Thank you’. In their technology-pickled brain, they have lost basic communication skills, as well as the ability to do simple tasks that will help them navigate the world of ‘real’ life – or what happens when you leave the office, basketball court, etc.
Parents today are struggling, just to make ends meet. With a two-income family, both parents are either working and depending on some form of after-school care, or are so busy taking their children to various classes like gymnastics, soccer and the likes, to spend any quality time with them. Not that I have an issue with these classes. Children learn skills at most of these activities that will serve them well later in life, like teamwork. But they don’t teach children the true basics of living. I will say this – for those two income households, I all too well understand that living is expensive, and raising children today costs ten times the amount it did when I was young. But how much of that expense goes to the latest greatest gadget or other activities, instead of the truly basic necessities?
The truth of the matter is that, if our children do not know how to take care of themselves, when the parents and grandparents are gone, who is going to do it for them? Kicking a soccer ball or doing flips on floor mats can only take you so far – and only a tiny percentage will have the skills to turn these activities into a life profession. What about the rest of the children who don’t make the cut for the Olympics, or Carnegie Hall?
I think our first mistake is Society as a whole. We seem to live in a throw-away world. Button popped off? Go buy another shirt and toss that one. Hungry? Pull into a drive-thru and toss the trash out the window when you are through. Tennis shoes out of style, even though you have only worn them twice? No problem. There are thousands of pairs down the road at the shoe store. Just slide that credit card through the machine and walk away. When did it become okay to be so wasteful? Personally, this keeping up with the neighbors can get tiresome and expensive.
Our second mistake sits within the parental realm. Unfortunately, too many of the parents don’t know these basic skills, either. And any time they do have is spent shuttling the kids from activity to activity, or doing their own thing while the children sit in their rooms doing homework. The way I see it, it is well past time for parents to learn a few of the basics, and then turn around and teach their children. If you really want to sign your children up for classes, check your local resources for classes in things like baking, sewing, quilting, woodworking, or even automobile maintenance. And don’t just sign them up – take the class with them.
The third mistake is allowing our school systems to remove classes like Home Economics and Shop from the regular curriculum. I have often wondered what would happen if I was a kid in school right now. The school system seems to place less emphasis on these classes, and push more for math, science and technology-based courses. Yes. I do know that Math is extremely important, and the world has become more technologically advanced. But if you can’t balance your checkbook, how to you plan on putting a roof over your head? If you can’t cook, how do you plant to put food in the mouths of your family, or pay for those expensive restaurant meals? If you don’t know how to use basic tools, how are you going to economically make small repairs? Or build a birdhouse with your child?
Children are not taught to respect anything or anyone. We live in an instant gratification world. Too many kids don’t have to wait or work hard for what they want, which is what teaches them appreciation for what they have, and a better appreciation for the things they eventually work and save enough money to get. They are not taught the difference between necessity and want, so to them, everything is a necessity. Regardless of whether it still works or not, it isn’t the latest greatest, so they ‘need’ the new one. Part of that is peer pressure – which is one of the worst things a young person can face. However, can we alleviate some of that, by instilling in them a strong self-confidence at home? It isn’t the easiest thing for a parent to do, but yes. It can be done.
I think it is time that we put our kids in the trenches and teach them some of the basic life skills. I want to see the next generations succeed in whatever career they choose, but I also want to be able to see them succeed in having a happy life at home. To do that, we need to instill in them the self-confidence they need to accomplish anything they can set their minds to. Not arrogance, but a calm quiet self-assurance.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be posting thoughts on what I feel are some of the more basic life skills that every human needs to know – if not master. Most of these skills have a learning depth to them: dig below the cookbook to find skills in math, science, biology, psychology and hygiene.
If I come across harsh in this or any subsequent post, then so be it. This is something I feel strongly about, and hate to see our children coming out on the losing end. They are, after all, (however cliché you want to see it) the future of the world. To have a better future, we need children today who can make that happen.
I will say this – if you feel any differently, or think I am off my rocker, then please feel free to voice your opinion. As long as you keep it clean, I will be happy to entertain your thoughts on the matter. But be warned. If you think I can read ‘text speak’, then you’ll need to press ‘2’ for any other language. I only speak English.
*Note: These posts aren’t just for parents. They are for anyone – mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandparent, neighbor, friend and teacher who interacts with children!