Do you have that special time with your children? A time when there are few distractions, a sense of purpose and time to talk. I did and it consisted of a half-mile walk to the neighborhood Shell gas station to get a can of pop. This Shell had five or six machines and a few dozen different selections. On a nice summer day we would walk up, buy a pop and walk back. Seems like a simple enough purpose, but that’s not what this story is about.
A mile walk, at a child’s pace, provides at least 40 minutes of time to talk. I used that time to pose questions to them and we would discuss. For example, the absolute question “is it always wrong to kill someone?”. Most of these types of questions resulted in a resounding “yes!”. Then we would talk about self-defense. Other questions allowed us to explore the history of the Civil War or the thorny issues around abortion. These talks allowed us to explore many questions and taught them that there are few, if any, absolutes in our world and that they needed to critically think for themselves. I personally think that’s one of the most important duties as a parent. They need to think for themselves and not believe everything they hear. And the lessons did not stop there.
The first time we made this trek, the three of us found ourselves standing in front of the pop machines trying to decide what to have. The kids couldn’t make up their minds and after a few minutes I decided on a root beer. That also made up their minds and two more root beers were purchased. The second trip also ended in them having what Dad decided. Time for a precious learning moment. On the third trip I just feigned not being able to decide and forced them to make their own decisions before I selected last. They had to step back, think about what they wanted and slide their two quarters into the machine. But after that first time where they were forced to decide, they never just chose what I chose. They liked figuring it out for themselves and occasionally take a risk to try something different. Sometimes achieving that freedom takes a small push, and again, a duty every parent should happily deliver.
I fondly remember those walks and talks. I also remember their mother thinking I was cheap because I only spent a dollar on them. She didn’t understand how priceless a little walk, and a little talk, could be.
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