I didn’t see Gilligan’s Island Until I Was 15. Big Whoop, you say? I am not sure if my parents were brilliant or lucky; however, when I look back at the first 14 years of my life, none of my memories center around a television show. Instead, my life revolved around music lessons, school activities, playing cops and robbers with my brother and sisters (DiAnna was always the robber), endless hours of Pickle (two bases, two baseball gloves, and a sister who ran back and forth for hours, sorry DiAnna), writing, drafting, walking, climbing, imagining, dreaming, and being quite the geek (I guess.)
My parents tell this story of the first year in their marriage where they found themselves rushing home to be home in time for a specific soap opera. After realizing their life was now revolving around some fictitious show about people who have unrealistic lives, they decided to remove the television from their house. The story is told that they put a hammer through in some sort of ritual; however, I can’t see my parents destroying a perfectly good television when they were young and barely making a living! Regardless, that decision set our entire family off down a path diametrically opposite of every friend I would have growing up.
I guess, in retrospect, I was forced to be curious. I say that somewhat jokingly, however, when you don’t have television to watch, facebook to update, friends to text, a social life outside of the family, you have to find something to do. I was forced to read to fill time. I was forced to take music lessons. I was forced to study every night, even if I didn’t need it. I was forced to find things that entertained me. I am so thankful for that part of my life.
Curiosity is our topic this week. I have had the perfect week to sort of lean into this topic. Our family camped in the Ozarks. For those readers from outside of the U.S., the Ozarks are one of the most beautiful areas in our country. They stretch from central Missouri down into Arkansas, with lakes, river, bluffs, trails, food, relaxation for everyone to enjoy.
Vacations used to be filled with quiet times to sit down and read a good book, lay in a hammock, have a nice quiet dinner with my wife, and sleep in every morning; not so anymore. My days are filled with early ‘is it time to get up?’ questions; hikes that last a wee bit too long for a 2 and a 4-year-old; trekking to find a series of geocaches; and evenings filled with board games, no television and family chats.
The best part of the week of vacation for me was the time my boys spent ‘scavenger hunting’ and ‘treasure hunting.’ Scavenger hunting consisted of a printable search sheet that I glued on a grocery bag. The boys systematically searched for rocks, twigs, flowers, birds (not in the bag) and about 15 other objects for an entire morning. Throughout the week, they yelled when they found something else that should have made it to their bag. What a blast. We took the time to feel of the bark of a tree. The little men still can’t discern smooth from rough; however, I did find Ervin feeling of his cheek and saying ‘smooth.’ We will see. Eli just ‘barked’ at the tree. Tree Bark.. get it? Argh, 4-year-olds.
We are so lucky to have people around our boys that are curious by nature. My father-in-law is one of the most interesting men I have ever known. He can talk on any subject, ask questions that are deep, and talk football or my boring job with the best of them. Both of my in-laws engage in geocaching with the boys. Now, Linda (mother-in-law) says it is for the boys; however, 80% of all of our finds, my wife and Linda find on their own. Here’s how it goes down. When we get close to a ‘treasure,’ Linda yells out, ‘Don’t anyone touch the treasure until the boys find it.’ So, here we are, a group of grown adults, traipsing around the forest, looking for an ammunition box filled with goodies; however, the main thing my mother-in-law wants out of this adventure is for our boys to ‘discover’ some trinket hidden under a log, on top of a rock, in a crevice, or down a pole. It doesn’t get much better than that in my opinion.
My wife has always said I ask everyone about what they do. It honestly probably drives her crazy; however, I know how every taxi driver gets paid; do they have to pay for their own cars; do they have to be licensed; do they like or dislike Uber; are they union or non-union; how many hours per day do they have to work; which days of the week or the busiest for them; and usually how many kids they have all before I get out of the cab.
Ian Leslie, writes in an article entitled The importance of encouraging Curiosity in Children “Curious people are more alive, somehow; their eyes are lit from behind. They know more about more, which makes them more interesting. They are also more interested – in you, in what you do or care about, in whatever topic floats across the dinner table or through the bar. The incurious are frustratingly, depressingly inert. Nothing you say can get them off their script, elicit a startling insight or provoke a perceptive question. They just are, in the way a grey English sky just is.” He is SO right.
Last week I got to spend two days with a group of scientists from General Electric doing some research on robotics. I know, how cool, right? These grown men were up on every machine, taking pictures, measuring distances, asking questions about the process throughout the two days . As someone who has been in the operations center where they were a few times, I had forgotten how cool the work we do is. A colleague and I were watching them from the safety of the van and he commented about the ‘zeal’ they have for life.
In researching for this week’s article, I ran across a great table that highlights how important Curiosity is:
- Curiosity results in Exploration
- Exploration results in Discovery
- Discovery results in Pleasure
- Pleasure results in Repetition
- Repetition results in Mastery
- Mastery results in New Skills
- New Skills results in Confidence
- Confidence results in Self-esteem
- Self-esteem results in Sense of Security
- Security results in More Exploration
So, how do we instill similar curiosity in our children?
- TURN OFF THE DANG TELEVISION I love television now as an adult; however, my wife and I say nightly, there is nothing on television to watch. We are going to focus on getting outside more with the boys this year and commit to more nights playing games, doing puzzles, hiking, and sharing an evening with friends and family.
- Model good curious behavior. My mother-in-law is a perfect example. She picks up bugs, flowers, twigs, geocaches, you name it and shows it to my boys. She does this with all of her grandkids and great grandkids.
- As painful as it is, answer your child’s questions even if you have answered it 1000 times already. I suck at this. I will commit to working on this all week to change the way I hear the pounding of questions at me.
- Commit to 15-30 minutes per day with child-directed play. This technique comes from Positive Parenting Solutions and works wonders. My wife and I are members of this series of training workshops and it is amazing content.
- Get Outside. I read a study today where a school tried doubling the recess time for their students and every measurement for success went up. Kids need to be engaged out of doors with other kids and their parents as much as possible.
- Take a risk and do something new. Today, when our family finished out hiking adventure, we ran into a divorced father and his three kids (14, 10, and 6) who were out hiking for the first time as a family. The boys were on fire. Their eyes were so excited about this experience and they have been forever changed after spending 2 hours hiking around the woods. Good job Tony. Tony wasn’t dressed for hiking comparatively; however, he had the best outfit on, a curious mind and an adventuresome spirit.
- Encourage your kids to ‘figure it out’ on their own. Don’t spoon feed them answers to their questions. Show them how to use the library, the internet, books, friends, families.
- Encourage Messes. Argh. Not my strong suit. Let them make a mess. They are learning from it. Trust my wife.
- Admit when you make mistakes in front of your kids. Failing is part of the gift of life. Let them learn that it is part of life and no big deal
- Listen to your kids. Let them try ‘anything’ within reason. I am not a big ‘sports parent.’ I am much more inclined to encourage pottery lessons, music lessons, etc.
There are dozens of other ways I am sure; however, we will be working on activities this week that focus on these 10 topics.
I hope you find this week one in which you are asked 1000 questions and you answer 1000 of them with more patience than I have historically shown. I promise to work on my responses this week with you.
Religious Corner (for those so inclined..)
Curiosity has some heavy undertones in the Bible. There are tons of warnings about temptation and desire. For example, Proverbs 27:20 Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied. That being said, I would say that a healthy curiosity strengthen’s one’s faith.
I argue that a good curiosity strengthen’s one’s faith because it continues to push us to have ‘faith.’ I believe it was much easier to be a believer if you were one of the disciples. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of reasons to not believe and to deny your belief; however, when you are walking with Jesus and he continues to produce miracles, it sort of becomes a ‘no duh’ moment. He is the real thing. Plus, don’t you think the disciples were curious? Wasn’t Jesus a great teacher? I don’t think students aren’t curious.
In today’s world, we are constantly barraged with information from experts that claim they have discovered why X happens or why Z happens. It takes a strong faith to listen, be curious about their findings and still have faith that God is the one, living God. I believe God wants our children to be curious and to explore this beautiful world he created. I suppose, you could keep your kids sheltered from everything in life; however, they need to have perspective so they can witness to others as they grow older. It is our job as fathers to ensure they curiosity is focused correctly and prevent them from engaging in activities they are curious about which only leads them further away from where God wants them.
“Dear God, thank you for this beautiful, incredibly complex world you have given us to live in. Please help my children become more focused on the world around them, more inquisitive about the places they visit and the people they meet and more engaged in the simpler things in our lives. Please give me the strength to turn off distractions and engage more deeply with my family every night this week. Please give me strength to be the father you want me to be and lead them closer to you throughout this week and beyond. I ask this in Jesus’s name. Amen.”