The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].
When my mom was growing up, she learned about milking cows, collecting eggs, and feeding chickens.
Gardening, churning butter, and canning were everyday chores as were doing laundry, cleaning, and helping raise the other kids.
When my mom raised me, the lessons were somewhat the same — we had a garden, picked vegetables and grapes, we composted, my mom canned, sewed, and cleaned on weekends.
Everything was homemade.
But when I hit adulthood the world had changed. There was all this new stuff I needed to learn in order to survive. But given how my parents were raised, they didn’t know how to prepare me for a world like the one I landed in (I wouldn’t have listened anyway).
Back when my mom left home at 17, she moved into a boarding house in DC where she had a job waiting at The Department of Agriculture. When I left home at 18, there were no such paths as far as I recall. There was just figure it out and that’s all I knew.
I didn’t go to college — in fact, I dropped out of high school. I had no work ethic for mundane boring crap. I was an artist, writer, dreamer of great dreams. So I learned what I needed by asking, at the bookstore, or by faking it until I figured shit out. I seemed to have an unlimited amount of resilience for this head banging approach to life.
We have in-depth conversations about politics, entrepreneurship, and history.
I wandered aimlessly in my “career” for several years. Then the internet came around and like it did for everyone, it changed my life. Maybe even saved it.
Since that time, I’ve spent most of my days on a computer — 22 years now. Not only working, but also doing a lot of research to learn how to do the things I need to do. I still have a lot of learning to do.
Today my reading is focused in these main areas:
- Startups and entrepreneurship
- User experience design
- Technology and science
- Writing and publishing
As a result, you can imagine what I talk to my kids about. All of that shit.
I hope that by talking about this stuff, emailing my kids articles, and repeating the mantra, “If it doesn’t exist, go make it,” that I’ve done them a favor.
And looking at what my kids are doing, I think it’s sinking in. My 16-year-old has written 2 novels, my 11-year-old is working on her first novel and is in the process of starting a business. We do social media planning together and talk about the importance of a marketing platform — one of them wants a YouTube channel — and I’ve taught my 16-year-old everything I know about user experience design. We have in-depth conversations about politics, entrepreneurship, and history. We all play instruments and create as much art as our house can hold. One plays softball and acts in plays, the other dances 13.5 hours a week. We eat dinner together every night and cuddle on the sofa around 9.
It’s freakin’ busy, but man they are driven. I am, too.
Both kids know that no matter what they choose to do in life, they need an entrepreneurial mindset; they need to know how to communicate an idea, pitch an audience, lead, go do things on their own, fund their own ideas, invent, create, and most importantly — they need to believe in themselves and be resilient.
But I haven’t taught them gardening, canning, or how to clean properly — though I have tried so hard on that last one. I have done some sewing with my younger daughter — but, wow — so much has been lost from my mother’s generation to theirs.
We talk about having a ranch one day, about composting, having a huge garden. I dream of making them more home cooked meals. We want to raise chickens and they want horses. I think those things matter a lot. I think nature is hugely important and I value being outside, it helps me feel calm, it is where I meditate. I value being able to cook, care for animals, stay out of debt, and live off the land.
There was all this new stuff I needed to learn in order to survive.
I think those things matter a lot. I think nature is hugely important and I value being outside, it helps me feel calm, it is where I meditate. I value being able to cook, care for animals, stay out of debt, and live off the land.
I was their Girl Scout troop leader for 3 years and that helped us focus on more “off the grid” lessons. But we stopped that in 2011. We miss it and I’d like to get back to it, but what do I drop off our routine to include that?
Life has gotten so busy. We all have planners and I talk to them a lot about goals and being focused. Mental discipline is a never ending conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, we still have lazy days and downtime — we procrastinate plenty. I make time to take them on long walks or hikes so we can just wander around and do nothing some days. I’m feeling one of those days coming on.
What do you teach your kids?
What do you think are the most important things we should teach kids today?