Teach me so that I can teach my kids.

Each winter, we travel to New Hampshire to spend the holidays with my wife’s family. We have, on occasion, gone skiing. I have spent a lot of time skiing and consider myself to be sort of good. As I get older, I don’t crave the bowls full of fresh powder anymore and am perfectly content with a nice, windy groomer that safely brings me to the bottom of the hill. I have taken my daughter out skiing a handful of times, but we live in Illinois, so we don’t get too many opportunities. 

This year was different. It had been two years since the last time we went, and I discovered that she was no longer the fearless, malleable little girl who used to bomb down the hill on her own. She’d grown up and learned about fear. I didn’t know how to teach her anymore. We were coming down the hill on our first run, and it had taken a solid 45 minutes to go a very short distance. She’s crying, I’m impatient, and my wife is not happy with me. Down comes a guy from the ski patrol, who sees us struggling and asks if he could show her a few things. My instinct was to say: “No thanks, I’ve got it.” but in my older age, I’ve come more to terms with recognizing that there are some things that I don’t know. 

So I went against my instincts and said: “Sure!” He proceeded to turn around so that his back was facing down the hill and held her hands as she snowplowed down. I took this opportunity to learn what he knew that I didn’t about how to make an inexperiencd 7 year-old have a fun day on the slopes with us. I learned his techniques and was able to salvage the day.

Now, I could have taken her to ski school while I had fun on my own going fast. But we don’t get to ski together, so I really didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to spend the day apart from her. But wait, what if the hill had a ski school for parents to teach their kids how to ski? I would totally sign up for that. I would spend big money for that. I would drive farther to get to a hill that offered that and I would feel loyal to them.

There are so many things beyond skiing that we as parents are good at that we could be teaching our kids. Take music. You’re sitting in the car and the request for Barney or One Direction comes at you from the back seat. Oh no. Not again. For the 50 millionth time?!? Why don’t you want to listen to good music, like what I want to listen to? I’d guess it’s primarily because they don’t know about your music and why it’s good. Kids love listening to new music, especially if they know a little bit about it. What do you know about music that you could teach them? Don’t just tell them that The Stones kill it, but why. What their influence has been. Maybe you don’t know. I know a little bit about a lot of music, but would love to learn from others who do.

You might play a musical instrument and would love to teach Tommy how to play the guitar, but how? Or you know how to swim, but do you know how to teach a toddler how to? This also goes for cooking, tennis, golf, languages, dance, and other activities that you pay big money for lessons for them. I’d bet you’d pay even bigger money if you got to learn how to do it with them.