I am rarely without a book close at hand. Plodding through the pages, eventually the stack next to my bed shortens. But not for long. My wish list on Amazon seems to grow faster than my available time to read. Originally an article for the Sacramento Christian Organization of Parent Educators (SCOPE) newsletter, I thought the following story would be the best way to introduce this rule I (try to) live by.
Having just finished grocery shopping at our local Super Wal Mart, we loaded everyone into the van and prepared to go home. It was already past dinnertime and the children were making the usual rumblings.
“What’s for dinner? Can we have mac and cheese?”
The vehicle started and then the engine stopped before we could pull out of the parking space. The battery had gone dead. The process of attempting to use jumper cables and eventually going back into Wal Mart to buy a battery while my wife and children waited in the van took about an hour. Groceries were getting warm and stomachs were starting to growl. Upon arrival back at home my three oldest children informed me that the experience had been more tolerable than it otherwise could have been because they had followed my advice. Ah, these moments make me happy!
My advice and a common thing for me to say around our home is, “Always bring a book.” My children had each done this and thereby had some way to pass the down time in the van without an abundance of difficulty. One of my responsibilities as a father is to oversee the education of my children. This phrase “Always bring a book” is one of my ways of teaching my children. I pack a lot of meaning into this phrase. Here are some of the things I am trying to communicate to my children.
First, education doesn’t begin and end with the textbook or ‘class time’. Education is to be a lifelong pursuit and much of it will need to be self-motivated and self-directed. Always bringing a book (and actually reading it) is one way to foster a love for learning.
Second, learning to use time wisely is an important life skill. Sitting in waiting rooms (or broken vans) one can find great opportunities to use small windows of time productively.
Third, edification is more important than entertainment. I am not completely (mostly, but not completely) against playing games on our smart phones. But, I believe it is much better for our minds and our hearts if we find something edifying and uplifting to read during otherwise wasted time slots. My children still read some books that are purely for entertainment, but as I guide and direct them over the years to come, I will be encouraging them to seek edification and not just entertainment.
So, around my house one often hears dad say to the kids as we are getting ready to pile into the van, “Always bring a book.” And the kids are learning, hopefully, that this saying packs a lot of meaning for their lives.
Backing the van out of the garage recently I said, “Did everyone bring a book?”
“I brought my crochet project,” one child said. “I brought a snack,” said another. “Mom says to always bring a water bottle,” said a third.
Well, sometimes they follow my advice.