First, I must tell you that I have never climbed on top of a booth at a restaurant unless I did it as a very young child, and if I did it then I am sure my good parents commanded me to get down instantly or receive a spanking. Yesterday I broke a decades-long history of non-booth-climbing, however, and I am not a bit ashamed. What made me do it?
The Husband and I are visiting our First Adolescent Male at his college. We took him out for a nice lunch, courtesy of his grandparents. As we ate, we chatted about his courses, and he said, “Mom, I can’t believe I am going to say this, but thank you for making us learn about art and stuff.”
It took a beat to absorb that. Dawning realization. VALIDATION OF PARENTING CHOICES. This is a Moment. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Before I knew it, I was on top of the booth’s bench seat with my arms in the air and a not-too-loud “Yay!” coming out of my mouth. It had to be done.
George Wesley Bellows – Both Members of This Club
Here is a piece I wrote almost five years ago when we were in the throes of making them learn about art and stuff:
April, 2008; Realization
During our trip to Mt. Vernon the other day I understood something in a clearer way that I had dimly grasped before: Children become what parents both consciously and unconsciously teach them to be.
We were moving from one tour stopping point to another and happened to be walking alongside the guide when I mentioned something to the boys about when I had visited Mt. Vernon as a child. In the conversation it became apparent that in my childhood we had done this kind of thing often and now my own family does the same. The guide said, “I tried to take my children to places like this, but they never really liked it.” That made me sad.
I thought about how it was not enough that the guide loved history himself; somehow, he failed to successfully pass it on to his children. I started thinking about the why of that. I am sure I do not have all the answers, but one thing occurred to me. When I was a kid, I don’t ever remember my parents saying, “So, children, how would you like to go to __________ in a few days?” No, they said, “Hey, we’re going to go to _________!” And we did. When we got there, they never asked us what we wanted to do; instead, they showed us things and told us about them and asked questions of guides and marveled at what we were seeing and wondered aloud why things were the way they were. They ignored the gift shops, so we did, too. They brought picnic food and we laughed and talked and were together doing what they planned.
I will not say I loved all of it. Cattle auctions were bearable because I was allowed to bring a book. Flower gardens were not at the top of my list of fun places to be, but today I love to visit gardens and when Dad recently suggested the possibility of going to a cattle show, I found myself thinking of it with anticipation.
We have behaved much the same way with our own children. I took them to libraries and bookstores strapped to myself in an infant carrier, timing the visits when they were most likely to be content. Kevin took them to the fire station as a matter of course. We visited harbors, museums, art galleries, gardens, and historical sites because we love to do that and assumed they would find things to enjoy there. Most of the time they did, and if they didn’t, they knew fussing wouldn’t make us leave. Now they have grown into the most pleasant companions on these excursions, although we really had a good time all along.
We are planning a trip to Florida to attend Alyssa’s graduation in a few weeks. On the way, we expect to visit Ft. Sumter, the Okefenokee Swamp, and Cape Canaveral. Samuel said to me the other day, “I can’t WAIT to see all those places!” I have many imperfections as a parent and as a person, but I believe this is one thing that has worked well. And that makes me glad.