Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Life skills

My son Franklin is nearing eight years old.  I've been thinking about his future and what we are doing now to prepare for it.  For instance, he has a children's investment account which he will be able to access when he's 18, and we try to save a little for him each month.  But more importantly I think, are the life skills he learns now. 

Physical skills

I didn't learn a lot of these when I was a kid--I had to teach myself as an adult, and some I still don't really know.  The kind of skills I mean are basic cooking and housekeeping, easy home maintenance and repair, gardening, simple plumbing and electrics, pet/animal care, budgeting and saving, etc.  There are a lot of useful things, which in the past all children learned from their family/community--either from observing or from helping. 

When I was young, my mother stayed home with us kids and did pretty much all the housework and cooking;  I didn't really learn how to do any until I moved out.  Though I eventually learned how to cook, I'm still not great at housework.  The more traditionally masculine skills, such as cutting firewood, I was not allowed to do (we were expected to conform to gender roles);  instead I was allocated caring for my younger siblings, something I didn't enjoy and has put me off childcare for life!

I want Franklin to know how to do many things (particularly without confining him to stereotypical roles), and this means letting him do those things--even if he does a terrible job at first.  To this end, he has his own regular chores including most of the chicken care, dishes twice a week, tidying away his own toys and books, and making his own school lunch.  He also helps me do laundry (sort, wash, hang, fold, and put away), sweeps and mops the floors once in a while, helps cook, changes his own bedding, and more. 

Emotional/relationship skills

Then there are less tangible skills which I hope Franklin learns, such as self-confidence, initiative and hard work;  and others like compassion, optimism and honesty.  I think he can learn these things only by example, and I try my best for him.  I let him know I trust him by allowing him do things himself, and try not to show him my own fears and inhibitions (sometimes this is hard).  I treat him with respect, and let him know I expect the same treatment from him.

I encourage him to make his own decisions, and I always try to tell him the truth, even when he asks awkward questions;  for instance, once he asked me why I killed our dog!  But I don't want him to think there are things he can't talk about with me, so I didn't get upset but explained about how old and sick she was and we took her to the vet to help her die so she wouldn't hurt any more. 

The goal

Basically, he's learning how to be an adult now, while he's still young enough and willing to learn--he's usually willing, though not always!  I hope he can grow up into a happy, well-rounded, well-skilled adult, capable and confident of taking care of himself.