Teach Your Children Well: Skills Goals

Teach your children wellWhen I was young my parents bought a piano – not because they were eager to play (Mom played some), but because they had a goal. And it wasn’t the goal you would expect. They didn’t desire for their children to become master pianists. Instead, the goal was simply for all of us to learn how to read music. We had to take lessons long enough to have learned to play with both hands – treble and bass clef – with decent proficiency. After that it was up to us to decide whether we continued.

Their desire to impart that skill made an impression on me. It made me conscious as a parent about what skills I wanted to invest in seeing my children master, that might fall outside the scope of an academic environment or basic life skills. Reading music is one. Downhill skiing is another – in spite of the fact that we live in a very flat part of the country (after all, it’s a sport you can enjoy into adulthood that is much easier to master at a younger age). Basic hand and machine sewing is a third.

This summer my husband had yet another specific skill on his radar for sharing with our youngest daughter: water skiing. A few summers ago, to her dad’s delight, Bethany, our 17-year-old, became confident at water skiing. But then Katherine, who is much more cautious, decided it wasn’t her thing at all and refused to try. Which left Evelyn. After years of daredevil tubing (“look, no hands!” she’d mouth at me while waving wildly as her tube bounced over the boat’s wake), it made sense that water skiing would suit her. She is ready to give it a go. So Mike has made a priority of finding a time where the two of them can get out on his parents’ boat (along with my sister-in-law & brother-in-law, to drive or spot) so she can learn to ski. That is his summer bucket list goal for Evelyn.

Have you ever thought about what skills you want your children to master that might take extra planning and effort? What knowledge or ability could serve them well in life? Are you proficient at something that others marvel over, that you could teach your kids? Or is there a skill you wish you had gained as a kid, but didn’t and don’t want your kids to miss out on? Consider keeping a list of these skills goals and actively providing opportunities for your kids to learn them.


Want to bring your family closer by creating family bucket lists? I can teach you how. Check out my book in e-book or paperback or take my online course, now only $15!

4 Ways to Bond One-on-One with Your Kids

4 Ways to Bond 1-on-1 TimeTuesday mornings are my Chick Fil A breakfast dates with Evelyn, my 12-year-old. We started going in February for their free mystery breakfast offerings and we’ve kept it up ever since. This month, with our eldest working 2 hours away at a camp and our 15-year-old in Europe with a friend for 12 days, I’ve enjoyed even more one-on-one time with Evelyn, but we’ve still kept that Tuesday morning date going. There is something about the ritual and our corner booth that makes it a special time for the two of us.

Even if you’re the parent of an only child, once your kid reaches a certain age, you may not be seeing much of them in a “hanging out” sort of way. And with busy schedules, it often takes planning and purposefulness to capture meaningful parent/child interactions. Here are 4 ways that have worked for me:

1. Get physical. Sharing a sport or physical activity can be a memory-making experience, even if it feels ordinary at the time. You could bike, play tennis, go golfing, run a 5k race.

2. Play a game. When you play games you laugh together, think together and shed the worries and stresses of life. You bond. The beauty is, there are games for every type of person. If your kid says he isn’t into games, you may not have found one that suits his personality. Check out boardgaming.com for game reviews and suggestions.

3. Go out to eat. Removing yourselves from the distractions of home allows you both to focus on each other better (although you might want to suggest that you both put your cell phones face down on the table or in a purse or pocket). Make a list together of places you want to try, and work from that whenever the opportunity arises.

4. Tackle a quest. Evelyn likes to quilt. I like to quilt. And while we do spend time working on our own projects in tandem (one of us at the sewing machine, the other ironing or cutting fabric), that shared interest recently afforded us the chance to go on a quest to visit a number of quilt stores in our area in what is called a “Shop Hop” complete with free patterns, raffles and discounts. You may not want to Shop Hop, but I’ll bet you can turn a shared interest into a quest of sorts. Try to use all of the LEGOs in your house in one huge project, test out recipes for your favorite dessert in search of the ultimate version, or see how many characters you can collect in Pokemon Go. You get the idea – a big shared project can equal a great time to bond.

Have you paid attention to how often you interact one-on-one with your kids? Are you due for a date or outing with each of them? Try one of the four methods above with your child this summer while your schedules are more open.CoursePromoImage


If you’re looking for more ideas to engage in bonding with your family that you can use this summer, sign up for my online video course “Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists”.

July 2016 Bucket List Life Dare: A Day of Freedom

July 2016 Bucket List Life DareWhat would you do with a whole day free: nothing on the calendar and no obligations to fulfill? It’s worth thinking about because the concept of freedom alone can yield interesting bucket list goals. A whole 24 hours to yourself with the freedom from other’s expectations. A wide open day of freedom in the location of your choosing to explore or relax. A day free from screens, phones, social media, interruptions, distractions.

Freedom, expressed in the way that we most need or prefer, can take on a variety of forms. But how often do we seize on it and embrace it in any form? More often than not conversations with people I know will gravitate toward how busy they are and how many obligations they have to fulfill. Freedom, and the release it provides, rarely factors into daily life – at least not here in the U.S. Which if anything, is ironic.

That’s why I chose this Bucket List Life Dare for July. I want us to take advantage of the freedom we should be able to experience in this great country of ours in ways that improve our lives. Too often I see freedom only being exercised to trumpet beliefs (freedom of expression). But freedom is about so much more than that.

So here’s your bucket list life dare for this coming month: put a big “X” through one day on your calendar this month and keep it free from planned activities. Enjoy that day of freedom however you and your family wish.

Our family has already booked a few days of camping in Michigan for later in July. It’s an annual trip for us that does a pretty good job of taking us away from obligations and giving us freedom. But to be more intentional about it, I’m going to encourage my family to make one of our days about everyone getting to choose one expression of freedom – go to the beach or not go to the beach. Get up early or sleep late. Eat healthy food or not. Or whatever it is they come up with.

How about you? What would a day of freedom look like for you? Can you claim a day of freedom on your calendar this month?




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Are You Ever Jealous of Your Kids?

Are you ever jealous of your kids? Where you wish you could be doing what they’re doing? Or could have seen what they’re seeing when you were the same age? Do you look back with regret on opportunities you passed up in your youth and do everything in your power to make sure your kids don’t miss out on the same, all the while still secretly wishing you had the chance to do it yourself?

Are You Ever JealousFor the most part, these are rhetorical questions because I think any middle- or upper-class parent today (and often many with more modest means) experiences jealousy toward their kids’ experiences at some time or another. I know I do.

Just this week I felt a twang of jealousy as I took my twelve-year-old to her first day of Chinese language immersion. I love learning new languages. As a kid, whenever I would hear the nasal tones of spoken French, the rasping gutturals of German, or sonorous up-and-downs of Mandarin, I wished I could speak another tongue. At the park when new kids came along, my best friend and I would pretend in vain to be anything other than the Midwestern born-and-bred girls that we were  by garbling nonsense to one another. But what we hoped would sound like gibberish to them ended up also being gibberish between the two of us.

If only I’d been able to take Chinese language immersion back then… except that in actuality I only lasted through a few months of French in sixth grade. I wasn’t ready for language learning at that age. Not only that, but I did study Spanish from high school through college. While I’m not so adept at speaking it any more, my comprehension of Spanish largely remains. I also studied Russian for several years after college, including six weeks of language study in Moscow. I became fairly proficient in it before letting it lapse (there aren’t many Russian speakers in our corner of Chicagoland). And most recently, I had taught myself basic Italian using Duolingo and Rosetta Stone.

What do I have to be jealous of?

Those thoughts went through my mind as I drove away from dropping my daughter off at class. As quickly as it arose, my jealousy disappeared. But had I not been acting on my desire to learn another language all along and had I not gained those great experiences for myself, the jealousy would have lingered. In fact, as I stopped to consider why I was even the slightest bit jealous, I realized that I need to keep at my language learning. Because that jealousy was telling me that I’m not done with my passion for learning foreign languages. I need to add “learn a fifth language” to my bucket list. Or at least “become more fluent in a foreign language.”

The next time you find yourself feeling jealous of your child, listen to what that reaction is trying to tell you. It’s probably speaking to you of a bucket list desire that you have left unfulfilled. Follow that cue until you’ve isolated what it is that you should add to your bucket list.

Because once you do not only will your jealousy disappear, you’ll also be able to enjoy watching your child’s adventure unfold in a way that best suits them. You’ll find that when you put your own bucket list dreams in motion, you’ll free your child from having to live them out for you while you look on with jealous interest.

Photo by Vashishtha Jogi on Unsplash



June 2016 Bucket List Life Dare: 10 New Things to Try

June 2016 Bucket List Life DareHere we are, at the gate to the garden of summer adventures, ready to open the door. You have the key in your hand. Will you do it? Or will you pass on by and leave it unopened, unexplored, sticking instead to the safety of the familiar?

This month’s dare is about taking the key to adventure and putting it in the lock so you just have to turn the knob to enter into adventure when you’re ready. Here’s what that looks like: create a list of ten new things you want to try this summer. Get out a piece of paper or open up a blank document. Write down the numbers 1-10, then fill in the slots with experiences you want to have in the next three months.

You list could include local shops you want to check out, foods you want to grill, sports you want to try, bike paths you want to travel, road trips you want to take. Make it an eclectic collection or go with a theme. Work hard to come up with ten ideas that are doable – not too far or too expensive or too time consuming. Although don’t pitch the ideas that are distant, pricey or long-term. Those should go on your master Bucket List. This list is just a mini version limited to the scope of the June through August of this year.

Invite your kids to come up with their own lists. Ask your spouse to create one too. Spend time in the next week as a family comparing lists.

If you stick with a list of 10 New Things to Try, you could easily check them all off by going after one each week. Or use your list as an outline for how you’ll spend days off, if you take a vacation.

Here’s my list:

1. Visit a new-to-me cupcake shop in the suburbs.

2. Go zip lining (they have this at the camp my daughter is working at this summer, so my goal is to do this on one of our visits to see her).

3. Make homemade tiramisu using the recipe we learned in Tuscany.

4. Pick one of my Pinterest “Crafts to Try” board ideas and do it.

5. Eat at a Naperville restaurant we’ve never been to.

6. Volunteer at a Naper Nights concert.

7. Put my daughter on a plane to Europe with a friend (already planned, but every list has to have a “gimme”).

8. Take my husband to a comedy club.

9. Check out a new-to-me festival.

10. Go to a vintage baseball game.

Once you have a list written, you won’t have to wonder about what to do when you’re looking for adventure. Just pick something from your list and go!

Are you game to take this month’s dare? Share in the comments an idea or two from your list.