Cultivating Curiosity, Seeding Success

Checking out the Golden Gate in San Francisco

Checking out the Golden Gate in San Francisco

I am a child of the 60s. Although I was born in 1955, the first five years of my life are understandably a bit foggy. But once I entered kindergarten in the San Fernando Valley in suburban Southern California, I became much more attuned to the world outside my own family and neighborhood. In addition to meeting new friends and classmates of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, I was increasing made aware of the realities of life. I remember walking the half mile to school with my only slightly older sister and brother, passing under the new Interstate and across busy Laurel Canyon Blvd. In 1963, my third grade teacher Mr. Mauer cried as he tearfully informed us of the assassination of President Kennedy and dismissed us to begin a week of National morning. I watched the Watts riots two years later on TV (my future husband lived close enough to personally witness them). All the while, the Vietnam war was becoming more real as TV news programs began to broadcast live reports from a part of the world we knew little about. While it was a tumultuous time, it did produce some of the best music and by the end of the decade, American Neil Armstrong, became the first man to walk on the moon.

My experience growing up during the turbulent 60s greatly influenced the way I, and with the agreement and support of my husband, chose to raise our kids in the 90s. I wanted my son and daughter to not only be aware of what was going on in the world but also how they could have an impact. I wanted them to be curious about the world around them and to understand how sometimes small actions can have outsize consequences. No subjects were off-limits and we were as honest as we could be within the confines of their age and experience at the time. Experience is the fundamental to understanding and curiosity tends to drive what people choose to experience. Of course, when our kids were young, their curiosity is about things they see around them. Things like animals, the weather, their family, and even food. Books can supply some answers and we read to them daily from the very beginning. But hands on experience often is the best teacher. So we allowed them to have pets and take responsibility for their care. Over the course of their childhood dogs, cats, rabbits, a duck, a goose, and even baby birds that had fallen out of a nest found shelter in our home or yard. We watched the storms rise over the mountains and talked about the relationship between thunder and lightning. We celebrated holidays with relatives who lived nearby and visited other relatives that lived farther away. We ate dinner together as a family and the kids were required to help in the preparation and clean-up as their age and skills allowed.

As they got older, they both participated in organized sports. It helped to teach teamwork, cooperation, leadership and how to win, and lose graciously. We let them try whatever sport they thought they might enjoy, with the only caveat that they finish the season and that they thank the coach. Josh learned that he liked soccer and that he was good runner, but decided that one season of little league was more than enough. On the other hand Becca never found a sport that she did not like. Perhaps the experiences that had the greatest impact on their life and career choices were gained through travel. The first time we took Josh camping he was six months old and we all slept in the back of our Volkswagen Van. By the time he was 4 or 5, he insisted on sleeping in his own tent. Becca loved camping as well. We camped several times a year mostly in State and National Parks. We took a six-week trip to Alaska before they were teenagers. They learned to love the outdoors, especially the ocean. As they got older, they went to sleep-away outdoor school with their school classmates on Catalina Island, a summer camp in the San Juan Islands, and Space Camp. But don’t let me forget some of the most important experiences they had as teenagers were the part-time summer jobs where they learned how to take orders from a boss or bosses and the satisfaction of seeing and tasting the results of your labor (they both worked for a local beekeeper for a while).

Curiosity leading to experiences leading to success as adults. Curiosity alone is not enough. As parents you need to guide your children to insure those experiences have a positive impact even, and especially if, the lesson is to change the direction. You have to be open to always learn something from and stay curious. It has worked for us.

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