When OmegaMom and soon-to-be-Mr.-OmegaMom were courting long distance, me in the S.F. Bay Area and he in Lubbock, we would rack up huge phone bills talking about everything under the sun. (Somewhere in this blog is the memory of how we got officially engaged at the end of a conversation that started, "Have you ever wondered how they make potato chips??") We're talking 7-hour long phone conversations, folks.
(I remember when my cousin K. was courting J., he ended up with similar huge phone bills. At the time, I couldn't understand it--I was only 18 or thereabouts; it seemed pretty odd that anyone could find that much to talk about with someone. Live and learn.)
One of our topics of conversation was a pair of lists about our future children: first, there was our list of Things We Wanted A Child Of Ours To Learn, and then there was our list of Characteristics We Thought Were Important.
As this was all done way back in the mists of time, circa 1994, my memory is somewhat faded...but, when I think about the general gist of those lists, I realize that we've held pretty steady on our ideas.
I tried to consult Mr. OmegaMom on this, because I thought maybe he might remember more than I did. It wasn't very helpful. He thought I might have written them down--and I might have, but we'd never be able to find them!
Under Things To Learn, we included: how to swim, how to dance, how to ride a bicycle, how to canoe, how to ride horses, a foreign language, how to ice or roller skate, how to cook, how to handle money, how to play a musical instrument.
Pretty basic stuff. The canoe and horses were from OmegaDad, based on his childhood. The cooking was because I could remember a friend (male) who went off to college and didn't know one thing about cooking--he had to call his mom from college to ask her how to cook a steak. I always found baking a relaxation, and OmegaDad's very most favorite hobby is to putter around in the kitchen cooking up a storm. The money handling is because both of us are not very good at it.
We're working on these things, bit by bit. OmegaDotter is, as readers know, enrolled in ballet and ice skating classes. We're teaching her dribs and drabs of Mandarin, but I'd also like her to really know French, Spanish, or German. The canoeing and horseback riding are coming. The horses, of course...honestly, we wanted her to learn, we didn't think we were going to end up with a child who was obsessed with them. And she's got a bicycle and the training wheels are gonna come off this summer if it kills me and the dotter doing it.
As for cooking--well, OmegaDad has bent his iron-clad rule of NO PEOPLE IN MY KITCHEN WHILE I'M COOKING!!! (Dammit!) to allow the dotter into the kitchen with him. She's learning all sorts of basic stuff right now, and helps both of us in various ways in the kitchen. We hope to have her doing some easy dinners by the time she's eight. (I will admit here that I'm somewhat jealous of the dotter in this respect; OmegaDad rarely bends that rule for me!)
The instrument will have to wait; Suzuki instruction intrigues us, but there's only so much time in a week, and part of me feels that children need to get a good grounding in just listening first. Plus there's the question of when one's fine-motor skills are advanced enough to handle it.
Money? Right now, she's busy saving up quarters for various Good Deeds and stuffing them into a plastic bottle, with plans for daddy to build her a playhouse with the proceeds. And we got her to trade her second
Under Characteristics, we included: Integrity, curiosity, kindness, bravery, honesty, self-confidence, joy, a love of learning, a love of science, a love of reading, a love of music.
These are much harder to quantify. How do you ensure that a child is learning these types of things? The only thing you can do is teach by example and hope to goodness it sticks. I fully expect a few years of parental angst when the dotter is in her mid to late teens, but hope that a good grounding in What The Family Thinks Is Right will provide an anchor or touchpoint for those turbulent years.
(Thanks to SBird, whose question was "What traits DO you want her to pick up?" I'm just amazed that I could remember most of them!)