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On the Raising of Children

On the Raising of Children

I don’t know when it came up, but I was talking recently to a big-wig here at the company about the spoiling of children. I was really poking him in jest, because I knew he had his brood in a private school.. and mostly because I knew he could take it. I don’t just poke any big-wig. I carefully pick my pokeable ones.

(snicker snicker snicker)(am twelve at heart)

I was surprised to find out, however, that his kids don’t drive new or even recently-new cars. And then he gave me some of the most amazing parenting advice ever: “Kids don’t need stuff. They need two things: experience and education. We spend our money on their education and giving them worldly experiences.”

And I was all like WHOA.

Because we fail there, I think. A lot. Typically, I would be inclined to say “I fail there”, but this one is a cojoined effort. Bryan and I both work outside of the house – and we work HARD – so when we get home.. we’re tired. And it’s entirely too easy to say, “Let’s watch a movie” and then pop on some Netflix Instant something or other. And I think, really I do, that Tony needs that time to wind-down, too. After a full day of daycare, he needs some time to shut his brain off and be quiet.

But that piece – education and experiences – really resonated with me. It’s why I didn’t hesitate to haul the boys to Chattanooga for the weekend in April and take through both aquariums AND Rock City. Dude, that was NOT a cheap trip. But they’ll remember it. Tony STILL talks about it.

And it’s hard because “education & experience” takes financial planning, and .. we suck at that too. It’s a lot easier to pick up “stuff” on payday and feel like a good parent than it is to squirrel money away for a cool trip. But I think we’re working towards just that, looking at a beach vacation as the summer wraps up. Figuring out how to get away for weekends at a time instead of a big chunk of vacation. Being smarter with money.

The boys don’t need name brand clothes, or a million versions of even off-brand outfits. They don’t need more video games or more Transformers. (BumbleBee has made a grand appearance in our lives now. Hooray.) They need to go see things, breathe different air, try new foods, meet interesting people.

I don’t remember toys growing up. I do, however, remember every family trip we took to Panama City Beach, or the year we spent a few weeks in St. Louis, or the many many trips to Dothan. I firmly believe we are placing priority in the wrong things in the raising of our children, and Blog as my witness, we are about the change that.

(Y’all are to keep me accountable, FYI.)

What was your FAVORITE family experience growing up?


View Comments (8)
  • I completely agree. My kids have been to Costa Rica for a month. They have an uncle (a good friend of the family) who lives in Scotland who is the next person we are going to visit. We are going to be driving to Minnesota here soon.

    I remember the trips we took to Chicago as a kid. My grandmother making homeade taffy and us buttering our hands and pulling and pulling and pulling until are arms were going to fall off. Shucking corn on the back porch. My great grandmother was the best apple peeler there ever was. She could peel an apple with one continue rind peel. They used to take me to the Kane County Fair. Or out to the country to a farmer’s market where it smelled like cow dung because the cows were right there. I remember being in Germany and taking a crazy vacation in a car too small for all of us to fit. I remember the laughs, and the stresses that we laugh about now. I remember camping with my family.

    I stress education as well in my family. I think also that education is more than being book smart,education and experience go hand in hand.

  • I love this idea. Sometimes I get caught up in thinking that my girls “need” this toy or that toy…but what they really need most is our attention. We are making a concentrated effort to get out and do some fun things this summer–we did the Chattanooga Aquarium two weeks ago and my girls had a blast.

    My family took lots of impromptu trips to fun places nearby, and I loved everyone of them. I want to do the same with our family. While big vacations are certainly fun and will do those when we can, I don’t want to discount the adventure of a day at the zoo for my toddlers.

  • Explore Huntsville and Madison County: feed (or better – don’t – just watch) the ducks at Big Spring Park; walk along the canal between the VBC and The Embassy Suites and talk about the fountain; stroll around the square and see the old and new buildings; pick blueberries at Merrimac Farm, apples at Scott’s, strawberries somewhere; play in the water spouts/fountains at Bridge Street (isn’t there a carousel there also; is it free??); check out the llamas next to the Greenery on 431; explore the Hays Nature Preserve or the Madison County Lake on Green Mountain (cooler on the mountain and there is a covered bridge!!); walk around your neighborhood — these are free (except the fruits) and require little gas. RCM is doing a great job listing activities for children, so find the parents and children options that have a fee here.

    Experience doesn’t have to be 50 or more miles away. We live in a very diverse community. Spend time with the children doing something, not in the car or plane on the way to a destination.

    If we need an aquarium here, get a few moms together and make it happen – that is how we got Sci-Quest and the Botanical Garden.

    Experience is a large component of children’s education.

    • I think you are absolutely right, there is a ton to do here and exploring all of it is an adventure in and of itself. However, there is something about travel that helps broaden the mind. Experiential learning can take place anywhere, but when children (and parents for that matter) are taken out of their comfort zone they can learn a lot about themselves and what they are capable of.

      • Totally agree about travel broadening the mind!!! My 25-month-old granddaughter lived in 3 countries in her first 6 months, has made more than 10 trans-Atlantic crossings, and visited more than 7 countries. Our children have traveled abroad and in the USA with and without their parents.

        My point is that it is TIME parents spend with their children that contributes more to children’s development and subsequent academic achievement, not the distance traveled or the attractions “notched in the belt.” Age of children is significant in the “comfort zone” challenge; the associated stress placed on parents and the whole family can become counterproductive. ages and stages . . . .

        The associated point is that young parents who do not have the financial resources to travel widely have local and day-trip options that offer mind-broadening, out-of-comfort-zone options without the guilt and stress of saving to go to highly touted attractions. Plus, Huntsville and Madison County are blessed with a rich cultural diversity.

  • What an awesome point she makes! I really enjoyed reading this–thanks for posting it! And I’m with her–it is way too easy to give them stuff as a short-term solution rather than give them our time. It’s hard for me to give anyone my full attention, but if she can do it, then I’m inspired to try, too.

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