I went for a run today. Running is great for me to process my backlog of thoughts. When I run, I’m free to think (which also takes my mind off of running.. neat.)
I usually run through a few different neighborhoods that are close to my house. In these neighborhoods, I’ll occasionally pass another runner or biker, but mostly, I don’t see a lot of people. Today, I ran up behind a woman who is walking in the same direction. As I passed her, there was also a woman getting something out of her car right next to us, and a man in his yard across the street.
Nothing miraculous happened, none of us stopped what we were doing, we just intersected for a moment, then moved on. But in my mind, I thought how random it was that four complete strangers ended up within a few feet of each other, within a few square miles of gridded streets, even for a split second. This made me think about how, even subconsciously, we have an expectation about where random interactions will happen. For instance, I know, that if I go to a mall, I will encounter hundreds of random people while I’m there. If I go for a run, I know there’s a good chance that I’ll cross paths with one or two pedestrians in an hour. But on the other hand, I would get completely freaked out if I walked into my house, and there were five strangers standing there! My point is that we know when and where to put our guard up. We also know where to expect the unexpected.
While I went down this rabbit hole of thought, my kids came to mind. I realized that even though I want them to explore and to be exposed to new and different things and people, I naturally only put them in the places where I expect exploration to happen. That’s like saying, I want you to be a good jumper, so I’m going to make your floor a trampoline. They’ll have no choice but to jump, but they probably won’t be able to jump without it.
As a parent, I want my kids to be explorers. I want them to desire to search for things, to find out how things work, to find out what they like and believe for themselves. (NOTE: If you’re a parent, read THIS..it’s SO, SO good.) I want these things for my kids for several reasons, not all of which I’m going to talk about right now. ( I think there’s a lot to explore on this topic, but I just want to bring up a piece of it now. ) I want this for my kids, because I think it gives them a glimpse into the world of innovation.. I think it’s good for them to know what’s safe and what’s not, by experience… I think they need to know that they’re not limited by their current situation. But one of the biggest reasons that I want my kids to be explorers, is because I think we’re all made with that nature in us… otherwise, why would humanity have ever created anything, improved anything, gone anywhere, tried anything? Mostly, I want them to be who they were made to be.
More on that another time, but for now, just know that I want to put my kids in places where have the chance to explore, where they have the chance to experience stuff that won’t happen in the living room, or the class room.
I’m realizing that you don’t foster the spirit of exploration by putting children in “explorable” situations, or by handing them a box of tools and something to take apart. If we can make EVERYTHING worth exploring, EVERYTHING worth trying, EVERYTHING worth figuring out, in their eyes, then we set them on a course. It’s about how we treat what we have and what we want. It’s about finding the miraculous in the simple.
I’ve always heard that school is more about learning how to learn, rather than the facts you learn. Until now, I’ve never applied that principle to parenting, but shouldn’t we? We should teach our kids that there is undiscovered country around every corner, and depth to be explored in everything. We should instill in our kids the idea that there are always more ways of doing things and more things to try. This would help them give up less, test more and ultimately find out more about themselves.
Yeah, maybe I have grand ideas about what my kids will become, and what their young minds are capable of.. but I don’t think I’m wrong. My parents believed in me (and still do) and they gave me chances to try things. They warned me and then let me fail, and every.. single.. time.. they helped me try again. Their willingness to let me fail and try again, showed me that I’m allowed to experiment, to test… and I think helped me want to always keep trying.
I want my kids to be happy. I want them to help people. I want them to use their strengths and love their lives. I want them to be explorers and adventurers.
I can’t make them be these things. There’s no formula, or solution. But there is an example to be set. Kids need support and encouragement. They need to be allowed to fail. When they fail, they need us to brush off the dirt and say “try again.. you’ll get it.” They need to know that climbing the wall again might be worth it, who knows what’s on the other side.
So, what do you think? How do we bring out our kids inner explorer? How do we encourage them to keep looking for adventure?