It’s one thing to preach the values of keeping your eyes open and your mind awake to the endless possibilities of the world. It’s often quite another to learn how to do this. As a father, I’m constantly aware my duty to not only teach my children but teach them how to keep learning every moment that life happening around them. I’ve decided that there are a few simple things in their lives which will exercise their intuition in a way that opens up their intellect to the possibilities of the world.
The core of what I teach my kids is that things are not always just as they seem. A good anime can be a mind-opening experience even when they aren’t ready for expansive literature. Listening to ancient music also helps make connections through the past to worlds that aren’t always accessible without a strong imagination. I teach them that life is all about people and their ability to connect, not any one great mind. Through it all, however, I’ve insisted that they develop three things that I think are important.
An Art: It doesn’t matter what form of expression you choose, everyone needs a way of saying things beyond language. It can be painting, sculpture, dance, or writing for all I care – as long it stretches their imagination and intuition into their intellect. My kids have both taken very well to the piano, an instrument that makes a good foundation for all music. My daughter is now playing and singing along to “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid” in a clear (but soft) alto voice. They’ve made me very proud.
A Sport: Exercising body is often more than just keeping fit, it’s about developing a skill that passes beyond consciousness. That builds faith in intuition and removes any tendency to be shy and unsure – the latter being a ticket to the fringes in our egocentric society. My son has taken to Karate, and practices with great relish nearly every day. My daughter took up Fencing recently, and I think she’ll stay with it. Neither really took to team sports like soccer, thought we tried, which is probably because they are my kids. The martial arts they have chosen teach discipline above all else, and I can see them growing in their sports.
A Language: This may not be as obvious, but learning a language while young is critical. One of the key tenants of Taoism is that language is used to describe our world, but it is not our world in itself. Immersion in another culture, constrained by its own language, is the best way to understand the limits of words as you work to expand how descriptive they are. Neither of my kids has chosen a language yet, which bothers me, but they are working on it. Their first choice is generally German, which I discourage as being nearly dead, but family heritage forces me to pass on a little of it no matter what. We’ll stay on this until they know enough to make a choice.
Are there other skills that every kid should choose an area to master before they are about 16? I’m sure there are, and I’d love to hear what everyone has to say in this area. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a father it’s that I’m winging it out here, taking my best guess and learning how to respond to the situation as I can. Talking it over with the rest of us that are trying to figure it out has always been the best thing I can do.
A lot of what I’m talking about here isn’t just for kids, of course. Adults can learn how to expand their minds as well, even if we get a bit stubborn once we think we’ve seen it all. I know that the more I keep my eyes open the more I see. That’s what I really want to teach, more than anything. I hope that a few skills chosen carefully add up to that bigger picture in the end. We’ll see in a few years.