Things To Do While The Kids Are Home

Getting ready to put a foil-wrapped banana on the coals.

Getting ready to put a foil-wrapped banana on the coals.

I am blessed to live in a rural area.  With young kids this can, sometimes, be a challenge though because many of the things kids want to do are a good distance away.  On the other hand, we are able to do things that city dwellers don’t have easy access to.  One of the favorite activities this time of year are bonfires.  Yes, this can be a little hard in the city, but with the advent of the Chiminea it is not impossible.

One of the old stand-by’s for bonfires is S’mores, which are roasted marshmallows and a piece of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker for those unfamiliar.  Variations include using Reese’s cups instead of chocolate bars or Oreo cookies instead of grahams.

Another, perhaps less well known fireside treat is roasted bananas or apples.  If using bananas, leave them in the skin but slice them lengthwise.  Don’t cut all the way through, leave the skin to act as a “banana boat” to hold the goodies.  If using apples, pears or other similar fruit, cut the core out but don’t go all the way through on these either.  Next take your favorite fillings and stuff them inside the cavity.  For bananas you can use chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows, jellies, nuts, caramels, etc.  For the apples I like brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup, peanut butter, walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries…you get the idea.  Let your imagination run wild!  After you stuff these fruits to the point they are no longer resembling health food, wrap them in foil and stick them in the embers.  You may need to turn them a few times to cook them evenly.  While you wait, roast a few dogs or marshmallows.  When they are soft and steamy pull them out and open the foil enough to allow cooling.  This is the hard part.  DON’T burn your tongue!  They will be VERY hot!  Once they cool, dig in and enjoy!  You can, of course, bake these treats in your oven, but you will miss the ambiance of the fire.

At our last bonfire we asked each other where the term came from.  Can you guess?  We couldn’t so we Googled it…most sites refer to the origin as being “bone fire” where animal bones were burned to get rid of the waste.  Now you know.  Perhaps this bit of trivia will further enhance your youngster’s enjoyment of your next bonfire!  In any event, be safe, have fun and make sure not to leave any hot embers unattended.  Please share with us what sort of things your family likes to do together!

Life’s Not Fair, Get Over It

I used to hate it when my mother said that to me. But not only is it true, it is an important lesson to learn.

We, as Americans, seem to have this mistaken idea that fairness is some kind of right. It’s not. In fact, bad things happen to good people all the time. Sure, that bitch we call Karma will eventually even the score, but in the here and now there are tons of instances where her sister Life sticks her foot out to trip us up.

Most of the time when “unfair” things happen it is our own fault. Sometimes we spend more than we should and an unexpected expense pops up that we can’t afford. Other times it is not our fault at all but I find this to be more of the exception than the rule. But I digress and that is for a different post.

Back to the point, life is full of setbacks and inconveniences. There are bullies in every stage of our life and we must be able to work around and often with them. There are things that happen to us because of poor choices that we or someone else made and we must adapt and overcome.

The successful person, the free citizen, finds solutions to problems and overcomes adversity. If we shield our children from the “unfairness” that they inevitably encounter in their youth we are denying them the tools they will need to thrive and excel as adults. So thanks, Mom, for all those moments when I hated hearing, “Life’s not fair, get over it!”

Are We Cheating Our Children?

It is natural for parents to want to protect their children, keep them from harm.  But in

Are you accidentally robbing your child's chances for success?

Are you accidentally robbing your child’s chances for success?

doing so are we depriving them of essential skills they will need as adults?

Consider this…in life you must face adversity.  There are confrontations, negotiations, people who would attempt to deceive or defraud you and those who would physically harm you.  If you have been sheltered as a child and adolescent, you will be unable to recognize and effectively deal with these inevitable situations.  So I suggest to you, as parents, don’t insulate your child from these learning experiences.  Instead, stand beside them and offer support and guidance where appropriate, but let them figure out how to deal with challenges.  You will be guiding them toward success instead of cheating them out of valuable life lessons.

The Problem With Equality

It is true that we are all created equal in that we have the same amount of time each day.  But we are not all equal, nor should we be.  I prefer to embrace individuality and try to appreciate each person for who they are and what their special talents are.

If we were to make everyone equal then we have no opportunity for excellence.  How sad would this

If we were all equal we would all be able to do this!

If we were all equal we would all be able paint like this!

world be if Michelangelo had never painted the Sistine Chapel or Alexander Bell never tried to talk to someone in another building?  Yet we deprive our children of the excitement of competition by not keeping score at Little League games so that the loser’s feelings aren’t hurt.  I have seen leagues where all the kids get trophies at the end of the season.  This not only makes the ones that didn’t win feel worse, but it robs the ones that did win of any sense of accomplishment or pride.  It also teaches our youth that both winning and losing are bad!  In reality, both are necessities and learning how to win, how to lose and how to utilize the lessons from the experience are vital to becoming a successful adult.

Another place where “equality” is misappropriated is our school system.  I became aware some years ago that when the elementary school kids bring their pencils, erasers, glue, crayons and other items that they picked out special for themselves to school they are instructed to put them all in a communal pot.  After all, we don’t want those who can’t afford Crayola scented markers to feel bad because they have the Dollar-Tree brand!  But we are really teaching the kids that they don’t own anything, they don’t have the right to keep what they work for and that financial success is evil.  Is this really what we want our kids to learn?

I submit to you that equality is a relative term.  We are all human.  We all have the right to follow our own path, reap our own rewards, revel in our successes and learn from our mishaps (okay, failures if you insist on using that word).  The motivational speakers will say that failure is the stepping stone to success.  I say it is a learning experience and a necessity for success.  If you never failed at anything you never left your comfort zone…and you are cheating yourself out of a vital and exciting life!  Let’s try to instill in our children…the future generation…the love of life and the ability to embrace our differences.  After all, it is those differences that have propelled us to where we are today.  So instead of all being equal, why don’t we all strive to achieve our individual best in whatever we do?  How great would that be?

Raising Children To Be Independent Thinkers

Will your child be the next great thinker?

Will your child be the next great thinker?

I raised my kids to think like free people. This makes an already difficult task of parenting even harder!  But the rewards are immeasurable.

If we are to have a future for humanity we must teach our children to think, to question, to explore and to rationalize…not to blindly except what is fed to them.  The beginning of this is teaching how to negotiate (and what is non-negotiable).  There are limits, of course.  And applying those restrictions simultaneously to instilling the love of freedom is not easy!  But it comes from balance between freedom and responsibility.  It gives our youth the tools they need to assess situations and make educated decisions all through life.

When I was a child I was told repeatedly by my mother, “Because I said so, that’s why!”  It infuriated me because all I wanted was the logic (and sometimes to get my way!) behind what she was saying I had to do or couldn’t do.  I was an inquisitive child and my children were as well.  I swore that I would never, NEVER say use that dreadful phrase with them…and I can only recall one instance where it slipped out of my lips, followed immediately by the thought, “Oh, my God, I am becoming my Mother!”  And it never happened again.  I am not saying that I didn’t make mistakes, we all do.  But my kids have grown up to be pretty awesome adults so I guess some things actually went as planned.

But the purpose of this post is not so much to talk about my kids as it is to inspire others to take into consideration how they interact with their own.  The mantra that children should be seen and not heard is counterproductive for a thriving society.  Talking to toddlers in baby-talk teaches them to speak baby talk.  Talking to them as if they were adults gives them a higher goal to strive for…after all, we learn by imitating what we are exposed to.  As they get older, do you let them make their own decisions about what to wear?  Do you negotiate about dinner items that may not be favorites?  Do you encourage trying things that are outside of the comfort zone?  Do you teach them that it is OK to win and it is also OK to lose?  To never allow failure is doing children a disservice.  They will not be able to cope with the inevitable setbacks in adult life and will have a stressful life as a result.  If success is discouraged (ever been to a little league game where they don’t keep score?) then we are robbing the kids of their sense of pride and self worth, plus we are not teaching them how to win gracefully.

These are all skills that are vital to success in life.  Negotiation is vital for getting jobs, buying necessities and maintaining relationships.  If you don’t know how to negotiate then you are reduced to arguments where no one wins.  Critical thinking skills are essential as well, for obvious reasons.  Suppose that Patrick Henry, George Washington, Galileo, Socrates, Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein had never questioned anything?  Where would we be today?  Will your child be the next great thinker?  Not if you don’t encourage free thought!