A leaking water pipe at our home last week started me thinking: If we hadn’t been home to take care of it, would our 19-year-old have known the simple fix?
That thought led me to consider the kinds of things we parents are – or are not – teaching our children.
We spend lots of time teaching our babies to talk, walk and feed themselves. Later, we teach them such skills as reading, how to tie their shoes, how to make a bed.
We also teach them fun things, like how to color, catch a ball, and ride a bicycle.
I suspect most of us teach our children about manners, respect for themselves and others, and our own spiritual beliefs. We try to instill in them knowledge they’ll need in order to get along with others and be productive members of society.
But what about things it would be good and helpful and wise to know? Do we teach them enough? Or do we stop teaching when they start school, expecting they’ll pick up other skills eventually?
I believe there are certain things everyone should know how to do.
My daddy taught me a lot of car-related skills: how to drive a stick shift, how often to change the oil, how to change a tire.
He also taught me how to whistle through my fingers, how to trailer a small boat, and start a lawnmower (and then use it!), how to make a kite out of newspaper.
Mom taught me how to sew, cook and operate the washer and dryer. (I learned from experience not to wash a new red sweater with a white blouse.)
Mom taught me good manners, how to apply lipstick, and how to change a baby’s diaper (this when my first nephew was born – I was 5).
I got my work ethic from my parents, as well as my bent toward volunteering, and an understanding of community.
Back in the old days (when I was young), if Mom and Dad didn’t teach you these kinds of things, Grandmama and Granddaddy did. They taught by showing us how they did things.
We sometimes thought they were old-fashioned, but we learned anyway. I learned how to tat (look it up), shell pecans, and churn ice cream.
My husband and I have taught our sons a lot of these things, except they had no interest in learning about diapers. But they both learned how to wash and dry their own clothes at age 7.
I asked a few young folks, including my own children, if they knew how to do certain tasks: change a tire, jump-start a car, sew on a button, unstop a clogged toilet, cook something besides mac and cheese or a frozen pizza, mow the lawn, file taxes.
I am happy to report that both my sons and many other young respondents do have most of these skills. Some of the others count on AAA for the car emergencies, YouTube for sewing, and Google for everything else.
One college graduate thinks she could unclog a toilet by opening the back of the tank and “jimmying” something.
Another college graduate thinks he could learn how to change a tire by Googling it, “but don’t you need something to lift up the car?”
While I did get a few chuckles from their answers, I don’t judge these young people on whether or not they have these skills. But I do question the parents, myself included.
Perhaps we could do a better job of teaching beyond the preschool years.
One parent said homeschooling her girls was a great way to teach lessons outside of the curriculum because they spent so much time together.
Another parent suggested that we are busier than our parents were, and we don’t have the time to spend with our kids doing chores, preparing meals together, or discussing life skills such as budgeting and check writing.
Maybe we should make time.
Yes, we now have the Internet and AAA, and they are incredibly useful.
But they don’t hold a candle to making newspaper kites with your daddy.