Five Experiences EVERY Kid Should Have

I have now earned the moniker “adventure momma.” Last year, I took my dear friend’s daughter (then eight) on a zip line/aerial course with the promise that, if she enjoyed herself, it would become an annual occurrence. She enjoyed herself.

This year, when I presented her with the option of again doing the “kid” course from last year or the level one adult course, she bravely chose the latter. I think she started to get a little nervous when she noticed that she was the only person under sixteen in the group of thirty or so in the training and gear-up area. I knew she was nervous once we climbed three stories of stairs to the start of the course. And her fears were evident to everyone when she held tightly to a bolt on the tree on the first platform as the zip liners caused the small landing to sway dramatically.

But never once did she consider backing down. Bolstered by my reminders of how awesome she did last year, the continued instruction from the guide and the expressed nervousness of the adult man behind me, she took a leap of faith. And then another. Each time, holding onto the tree a little less and smiling a little more.

One man in the group, an active marine, looked reticent at having a nervous nine-year-old in his group. At the end, he approached her with a high five and dubbed her a superstar.

That’s an experience every child should have.

Not necessarily the zip lining (although as an “adventure momma,” I full support this activity!), but the opportunity to do something that is scary and feel the satisfaction and confidence on the other side.

 

The following are five experiences that EVERY child should have by the age of ten:

 

1 – Time Outside Their Comfort Zone

One of the more common – and frustrating – ways that kids become entrenched in their comfort zones is with food. Once they have decided that they like Kraft Mac and cheese or chicken nuggets, it can feel like trying to engineer a habitat on Mars to get them to try something new. One mom I know recently started the family on Purple Carrot, a vegetarian meal delivery service that offers unique and creative vegetable-based recipes.  Her son picks out the biweekly meals and is now excited to try new foods.

Here’s the thing with comfort zones – the more time you spend in them, the harder it becomes to take a step outside of them. If kids are raised without every being encouraged (okay, sometimes pushed) outside their comfort zone, they will become an adult who is afraid to try new things or take any risks.

Depending upon the personality of your child, this journey outside their comfort zone may be quite a struggle for both of you, but the long-term payoffs are worth the short-term frustration.

 

2 – Occasion to Struggle

As a parent, one of your strongest motivations is to keep your children safe and happy. This noble instinct means that you’ll give up your life for them, but it also means that sometimes you may shelter them too much from their own life.

As a teacher, I constantly have to fight the impulse to give a child the answer or to expedite the process by simply doing some task for a kid (try teaching new middle-schoolers how to open their lockers some time – it’s an exercise in extreme patience!). I resist the urge, because I know that bypassing the struggle also means bypassing the learning.

It’s not easy watching a child grapple with something until their frustration reaches a boiling point. It can be so tempting to step in with your greater wisdom and experience and solve a problem for them instead of stepping back and letting them try on their own. We often want to create so many guidelines and boundaries for them that they have no choice but to follow a predetermined and manicured path.

Yet struggle is exactly what builds strength. Confidence. Resilience.

Let them try. They will fail sometimes. And that’s okay.

 

3 – Practice With Failure

Brock showed me a video on his facebook feed the other day. It showed a young girl attempting to jump onto a high platform with the encouragement of her father in the background. She tries and fails to stick the landing many times. At one point, you can see her frustration starting to grow and her father steps in and gives her a little pep talk. She nails the next attempt.

This young girl’s muscles indicate that she is training for some sort of gymnastics, but her attitude towards failure shows that, more importantly, she is training for life.

Failure is a certainty. When it is delayed for too long, coming first in later childhood or even adulthood, it comes as quite a shock and can easily be interpreted as, “I am a failure.” By exposing young kids to repeated failure, it normalizes the experience and lessens its power.

Along with failing to achieve their personal goals, kids will experience losing to others that are smarter or more talented (or just luckier) than they are. This can become a great opportunity to expose them to fact that life isn’t fair.

 

4 – Opportunity to Accept That Life is Unfair

Kids have a tendency to see the world in black and white. If you’re a benevolent character, things will go your way in the long run. If you’re the villain, you will eventually get what’s coming to you. Playing by the rules will allow you to win and breaking the rules always leads to consequences.

As adults, we know it’s not that simple. Some of the kindest souls in the world have been subject to seemingly endless tragedies. Many bad guys find success, even as they harm others to reach their goals. Sometimes the hardest worker is passed up for the raise and the best friend is left in the dust.

Life isn’t fair. It’s up to us to help our kids understand this basic truth so that they do not carry forth with unrealistic expectations. Included in this lesson is the idea that kindness is never wasted and by giving to others, we can help to lift the lives of all.

 

5 – Episodes of Altruism Without Expectation

My favorite day of the school year is one that we dub our day of giving. The entire faculty  joins with the student body and hundreds of parent volunteers to participate in community service projects. It’s always a magical day as the students first realize how much need there is in our own suburban community and then feel accomplished by helping to meet those needs.

Giving to others shapes kids in many ways. It teaches them compassion for others and helps them to respect those that may live differently than they do. It shows them that small acts can have great consequences and that when we work together, we can achieve even greater things. By engaging in altruistic acts without expectation of reward, we encourage them to develop integrity and the importance of doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

 

By ensuring that your kids have had these experiences, you are raising them to be strong, resilient and compassionate. All these qualities will continue to serve them well far into the future.

 

Have your kids had to experience divorce? Here are the vital lessons that divorce teaches children. 

 

 

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Feeling Crazy After Divorce?

How Could They Move On So Quickly?

My ex-husband certainly wasted no time. He didn’t even bother filing for divorce before he married his second (I’m assuming here; there could have been others) wife.

Among all of the myriad thoughts that crashed around my mind in the aftermath of the discovery, one kept popping back up to the surface,

“How could he move on so quickly?”

I just couldn’t understand how he could go from sixteen years with the same person to seemingly head-over-heels within weeks of meeting this new woman. Here he was celebrating his newfound love while I was still struggling to sleep through the night.

Of course, it was apples to oranges trying to equate my mental state at the time with his. For so many reasons, we were at different places when it came to our readiness for moving on.

The following are some of the reasons that your ex may have moved on (or appeared to move on) soon after your breakup:

 

They have pre-grieved the breakup.

In some situations, one person has known (or at least suspected) that the relationship is over long before it is pronounced terminal. In these cases, the one with the prior knowledge often begins grieving the end of the relationship months or even years before it is truly over. They may begin to withdraw, they might start to expand their social circle and hobbies to fill anticipated gaps and they have time to process the loss. They will be ready to move on before you are because they have been attending to the breakup for a longer period of time.

 

They want you to think they’ve moved on.

Sometimes moving on is an illusion, a play put on social media or spread through mutual acquaintances in an attempt to make you jealous or regretful. The urge is understandable, although childlike. It can be driven by a, “I’ll show them that I am desirable” attitude. Others try to appear moved on soon after the end of the relationship because they don’t want to be seen as “weak” by appearing affected by the breakup. These people are motivated by a need to be seen as strong.

 

They are afraid of being alone.

Some people hop from relationship to relationship like life is a rocky river crossing. They cannot stomach the thought of being alone and so they waste no time in lining up the next partner as soon as a relationship implodes. This is less “moving on” and more “grasping on;” they’ll hold onto anyone like a life raft. Learn more about the underlying issues that lead to a fear of being alone.

 

They are able to compartmentalize your relationship and the new one.

For many us, we cannot enter into a new relationship before we have fully dissected and processed the previous one. Others are able to keep those two processes more separate. It may be that your ex seems to be moving quickly because they are doing the often- invisible internal work concurrent with reentry to the dating scene.

 

They are using dating as a distraction.

Let’s face it, divorce sucks. And while you’re going through it, you’d rather think about anything else. For some, this distraction comes in the form of dating. Although this can look like they’re moved on, they’re are really using others as a bandaid to temporarily stop the pain. Early dating can also be motivated by the blow to confidence that often accompanies divorce; it’s good to feel wanted.

 

They started seeing this person before your relationship ended.

If your ex seems to have moved on quickly, it may be that they were having an affair during your relationship and now that your partnership has ended, the love interest is brought to the surface. Of course, this revelation brings with it it’s own set of problems. Betrayal is a uniquely piercing pain with long-ranging repercussions.

 

They met somebody who is a good fit for them at this point in their lives.

And here’s the hard one – maybe they have met somebody that is a good match for them. I know that can be difficult to stomach when you still might be wishing/hoping/believing that you’re that person. It’s important here to remember that not being the right person for them does not mean that you’re a bad person and it certainly does not mean that you’re not the right person for someone else. It simply means that your ex found a better match for them and now you have an opportunity to look for somebody better for you.

 

 

In my ex’s case, he knew that the end was approaching and so had time to process the divorce long before it happened. He was having affairs and so his other wife was lined up and ready to go. And, from what I learned, she was a good fit for him at the time – trusting, nomadic and in possession of a decent credit score.

In time, I no longer questioned how he could move on so quickly. Instead, I got busy with moving on myself with a sense of gratitude that she helped to take him out of my life and far away.

One Small Step, But One Giant Leap for Me

In all of my years of dog companionship, I have never once taken a dog to a dog park by myself.

In some ways, it’s been a valid fear. Dog parks are filled with uncertainty, from the untrained dogs who like to provoke the other pups to the distracted humans more focused on their phones than on their dogs. I’m strong, but I’m small and I would have little success attempting to physically break up a scuffle. And one especially horrific dog attack that I witnessed (in my neighborhood, not a dog park, but still…) is forever imprinted in my memory.

In addition, there is my concern about accidental injury. It’s only been a few months since Kazh had a serious broken leg at the dog park (the incident had everything to do with a tennis ball and nothing at all to do with the location, but still…).

But in most ways, it’s been an irrational worry. I’ve been to dog parks hundreds of times with my husband. In those visits, I’ve had the opportunity to watch and learn the specific energy that leads to potential trouble. I’ve corrected dogs that were causing trouble and reminded mine to stay out of the drama. My daily walks with Kazh have been instrumental with his training and helped me to establish trust with him. Kazh has been amazing with every situation that he’s been in and even helped to train (with my husband’s help) a friend’s excited and undisciplined dog.

In other words, I’m ready and Kazh has been ready.

Today I finally took that leap. I loaded the pup in the car, made the short drive and walked into that park with a mixture of false confidence and familiarity.

And it went off without a hitch.

One of my absolutely favorite feelings in the world is being afraid of something and doing it anyways.

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How to Maintain Your Independence in a Marriage

When I first married at the age of twenty-two, I was happy to trade in my independence for what I thought was a guarantee of partnership and togetherness. By exchanging “me” for “we,” I knew that I was making the promise to consider his opinions and needs when making decisions and that I was committing to putting the marriage before my own desires and dreams. A transaction that seemed completely reasonable at the time.

 

I didn’t lose my independence all at once.

 

Its integrity frayed slowly, like fabric subject to excess friction. Sometimes, it simply didn’t feel worth the energy to assert my own opinions. Other times, I found that I too easily adopted his views as my own. He became my primary confidant, my go-to social partner and we undertook most tasks and errands together simply by default.

Some of my actions were driven by consideration and respect – I would notify him if I was running late, consult him before making a major decision and seek his approval before spending a significant sum.

Other behaviors seem more concerning in retrospect. I was always careful to consider his feelings or preferences, yet I often neglected to examine my own.  I looked for his validation when I took up running at the age of thirty. I rarely went to parties or other large-group gatherings without him. And I relied on him to take over tasks that I found difficult instead of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone (the one that stands out the most here is making returns at a store – I HATED doing that to the point of mini anxiety attacks).

On one of my first shopping expeditions after he left, I impulsively grabbed a pack of strawberry-flavored gum at the register. Not because I have a particular fondness for fruit gum, but because he despised it so much that I never chewed the stuff. Not even in the hours I spent away from him each day.

That small act suggested a large step.

 

It was time to take back my independence and again find the “me” that had been lost in the “we.”

 

It was strange at first, acting without consulting anybody else. Making decisions on my own (and also facing the consequences of those choices on my own). I felt a little lost, like a kid at their first summer camp, unsure how to act when the accustomed structure was no longer apparent. Then, over time, the independence became comfortable and ultimately, essential. That autonomy that I had so willingly signed away years ago had become imperative to my well-being. Even though I wanted another partnership, I vowed to never again give away my independence.

My marriage now looks very different than my earlier marriage. We came together later in life, with established careers, friendships, bank accounts and habits that we weren’t willing to lose in order to enter into a relationship. Instead of there being an assumption that everything would become shared, we negotiated what elements we would merge and what would stay more autonomous.

I feel that I now truly have the best of both worlds – I know that my husband has my back but I also have my own mind (and vice-versa). There’s a much better balance; whereas my first marriage was dependent, this one is interdependent with a hearty sprinkling of independence.

 

The fear of losing oneself upon entering a relationship is a commonly cited reason for resisting commitment.

 

And rightfully so.

It’s easy to get so caught up in your role as wife, husband, mother or father that you no longer have the time or energy to devote to those things that used to bring you joy. You can find yourself slowly losing your desire or even ability to make decisions on your own, deflecting these to your partner and neglecting your thoughts in the process.

Maybe you came out of your previous marriage with the realization that you lost yourself somewhere along the way. Maybe, after years of hard work, you feel like you’ve found yourself again. You like your life. Love your independence and the confidence and freedom that comes with it. And still, you may find that you’re feeling pulled towards partnership. But you know that you don’t want to lose that independence that you’ve fought so hard for.

Good news. You can maintain your independence even within a marriage.

 

  How to Be Married (and Still Be Yourself)

 

Choose a Partner With Similar Requirements

There are some people who want to spend all of their time with their spouse. They share email addresses, home offices and friends. Others prefer to have more delineation between mine, yours and ours, creating and maintaining boundaries between areas. Some married couples even agree to live separately and only have the smallest regions of intersection between their lives.

No situation is better than the other and any variation within this continuum is perfectly fine as long as both partners are in agreement with the terms. And since you’re concerned about maintaining your independence, seek out people that are equally dedicated to maintaining their freedoms as well. Those that have full lives are more likely to respect your interests and passions and willing allow you the time to operate solo.

If, like me, you’ve experienced more overlapping lives in your past relationships, be aware that it may take time for you to adjust to this shift in the dynamic. You can’t have it both ways – if you’re going to maintain your independence, you also have to accept that you will receive less attention from your partner because they will also be busy with their own lives.

 

Distinguish Between Independence and Consideration

When I was single, I could go away for a weekend and not tell anyone as long as I returned in time for work on Monday morning. Now as a married woman, I can still go away by myself for a weekend, but I do have to at least inform my husband first. To leave without the respect of ample notice would be rude and inconsistent with a healthy partnership.

Sometimes, when people say they want to maintain their independence, they really mean that they do not want any responsibility to anybody else. Which is ultimately incompatible in a relationship (How many of you have been married to people like this who think that everything is always and only about them?).

When you enter into a relationship, you have a responsibility to the other person. And one of those duties is to be considerate of their rights and needs. And that consideration may sometimes step on the toes of your desire for independence. But when you enter into a marriage, that’s the choice you’ve made.

 

Determine What is Important to You

When I lived alone, I played heavy metal in the living room during 4:00 am workouts. I came home every day to clean kitchen and relaxed every evening on my white slipcovered sofa. When I moved in with my now-husband, I knew that all of those things would be history. And I also decided that those things weren’t important to me.

Of course, there were other considerations that I deemed vital. I needed to have my own space in the home, I needed to be able to schedule my evenings and weekends the way I wanted and I had to maintain control over my own paychecks and accounts. I actually made a list of the specific types of independence that were important to me; I wanted to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently lose my autonomy again.

Take the time to decide what independence looks like for you. What makes you feel controlled or trapped? What conditions allow you the freedom you want?

Is this compatible with a relationship? With parenthood (or parenthood of younger children)? Be honest with yourself here. If you try to pigeonhole yourself into too small a hole, you will inevitably feel constricted. It’s better to start with less commitment and responsibility and see if you want to grow towards more.

 

Communicate Your Needs Clearly and Early

All you need to do to understand the struggles inherent in a bid for more independence is look at teenagers and their parents. The teens want more freedom; the parents fear losing their kids. The kids push their parents away and the parents often take these words and behaviors personally.

It’s not that different in a partnership. When one person suddenly makes a stand for more independence, it can be seen as a threat to the relationship and can be taken personally. This is a great place for those famous “I statements,” to communicate that this is about what you’re needing, not about the other person.

Whenever possible, communicate your needs for independence at the beginning of the relationship. If your needs have changed over time, be aware that the information may be difficult for your partner to receive and that it may take a series of conversations (and time) to fully negotiate the changes.

 

Listen to Your Partner and Ignore the Peanut Gallery

When I was on my recent trip and mentioned my husband (who was home in Atlanta) to someone, I often received a raised eyebrow, “Why aren’t you doing this trip together?” I gave them a pat non-answer because the real one would be a bit longer.

Travel is important to me. I only recently have the means to enjoy it again after recovering from my ex’s financial shenanigans. In my former life, I waited too much to live, always promising myself that I would do all of the things once some benchmark occurred. And after? I promised myself that I would never again wait to live. Or to travel.

It’s different for my husband. He has to travel for work and being away means that he can’t train martial arts (his passion). His preferred funnel for the “I’ve made it tough to exhale” funds is his Corvette. And he much prefers waking up in the same bed each day to days full of the unknowns and inevitably discomforts of travel.

So I travel and often he does not. And it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of that other than the two of us (and Kazh too!).

Do what works for you and your partner and feel free to turn a deaf ear to those that want to criticize from afar. After all, the ultimate independence is the freedom to build your life in the way that works for you. Whatever that may look like.