As adults, we may get caught in a rut of doing the same things over and over. When that happens our children and others around us get caught in the same rut. If you have not noticed we have been printing stories about travel. Some places are as far away as China and others are close like Royal Oak, MI. We have a responsibility to ourselves and those around us to encourage travel and broadening of the mind. It always concerns me when I go on speaking engagements and I ask children if they have traveled outside of the city where they live and they say no. Travel really gives both children and adults an opportunity to explore and learn. Even the car ride to a destination can be made into an experience if you take the time to get information about the path you are taking. Playing games about the cities that you pass through are also fun.
I remember driving with my father on long trips and he would make us use police codes for license plates for example, BKM234 is Boy King Mary 234. It was so exciting when the four of us would race to be the first one to figure it out. I guess only a police officer would play that game but I am sure that car games that expand the mind are plentiful.
My children and I play "Did you know...." games. For example, did you know that bees are the only insect that make food for human consumption. Honey is the best just ask Winnie the Poo. My youngest son is the best at it because he reads the "Guinness Book of World Records" and "Ripley's Believe it or Not". While he is still working on maturing as a tween, he is reading and teaching himself German. I have no idea why he is teaching himself German but he is. He has his own way of doing things and as a parent, I appreciate it. Instead of learning phrases first, he is teaching himself German words. He has an app on his iPod and he is going about it at his own pace. I told him he had better learn how to ask where the bathroom is because you have to pay to use it in Germany. He smiled and told me he has time.
Sometimes we just turn the power buttons off on our phones, laptops and televisions just to have conversation about what is going on in the world. It is amazing what young people know. They carry information like bees carry pollen to other flowers. I find that for the most part that engaging in conversation is good for the family too. I realize how smart my children are and it opens the door to other questions that I may have with them about their opinions, likes and dislikes.
This past summer, we did a lot of breathing. Breathing is good for people who are not active. We actually walked a lot in the neighborhood. This year was the first time I let the two younger ones walk by themselves. Of course there had to be a reward which was walking to the store. My reason for allowing them to walk was very different. I noticed that there was no arguing. They became a cohesive team protecting each other. A little fresh air also seemed to make them more relaxed as they told stories about the people they encountered along the way. They also mentioned the types of food the store sold that had nothing to do with what their goal was and that was to get candy. Now they walk farther, I just purchased a gift card and let them handle the rest.
This school year has been amazing as well for my son who has trouble communicating with adults when he had a problem with other children. During one of my many trips, I would pick up promotional items and at one of the seminars they handed out a nice notebook with a pen. I told my son to write down the date and time of your problem and the issue and give it to someone in authority. It seems to be working very well especially helping him to deal with issues without becoming so upset. When he was born he was so quiet. He started talking very late. He is finally coming out of his shell. He spent a lot of time reading during his quiet times and as a 7th grader he reads on an 11th grade level. If only he can remember to hand in his homework we will have had a total turnaround from last year.
I also have found that allowing my children to volunteer at the City Mission helping with meals for the homeless with the Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity Inc. Sigma Upsilon Graduate Chapter in Lansing, MI has been helpful. They are so funny when they come home. They have been volunteering for about a year. I notice that they want to volunteer more as well. This year both of them volunteered at the Walnut Neighborhood Organization picnic without complaints. Their Uncle Jacques has done a great job pulling them out of the norm and putting them to work for those who are less fortunate. I have found that they are more grateful for the things that they have. They are learning that not everyone has what they do.
My son and I now have a challenge that he has to hand in him homework. Surprisingly, he told me if I have a challenge for him then he has one for me. I gave him the google eyes. He just wants to have a family dinner at a restaurant. I can do that. Oh, he also wants us to get dressed up. I am loving this. Did you know that my children are growing up? Yes, sadly in six years they will be going off to college. I am not sure if I am ready for that but I guess that period of time will be another learning experience too.
This column was printed in the October 19, 2014 - November 1, 2014