Nurture Versus Nature

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.    Phillippians 4:9

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy girlfriends and I are doing kid swaps this summer. Jess is a teacher. So when she hosted the seven kids in June, she put on a Harry Potter Science Camp that was phenomenal! Pam is a personal trainer and has a pool. So her day in August will be “Sweat and Swim.” I hosted last Monday and did “The Way Back Machine.”

At my little camp, the seven kids had to make helmets out of tin foil that would receive the gamma rays from the Way Back Machine to be transported back in time. When we arrived in the 1950’s, we did 1950’s kid things: making portable phones out of paper cups and strings, playing Old Maid and Kick The Can, and drinking root beer floats. We also built a club house, complete with a secret password and knock to get in.

My three kids are incredibly imaginative. So I was floored by how little hands-on abilities they had. I also wasn’t ready for them to be so defeated by the smallest technical difficulty while building the club house.

One of the many gifts my mom passed on to my siblings and me is creative problem solving. There has yet to be a problem she hasn’t taught us to solve. Even when I thought there was no possible way to get my couch up to the second floor in our old 1925 house with a 90 degree turn in the staircase, my Mom arrived on our door step, with my Dad, with all the tools necessary to cut the couch in half, bring it up the stairs, and reassemble it there.

I thought I was passing those same problem solving skills on to my kids, but the clubhouse construction challenges underscored that I haven’t.

I continue to assume that things are innate and my kids should come by them naturally. My mom taught us so subtly and consistently, I didn’t recognize them as teaching moments. Whether it was prayers, our faith, manners, or problem solving, these little lessons were seamlessly woven throughout our days. Moreover, growing up in a household of seven kids had us living in our own mini-world where everyone was held to the same standards, each one carrying their own load. That meant putting these little mini-lessons into practice, day in and day out, over and over again. Through it all, my mom was right there with us: elbow to elbow, working right alongside us, role modeling how it all should look. We absorbed all she was teaching us so gradually, it seemed as if we came by our faith and manners and problem solving skills more by nature than by nurture.

The same can be said about Jesus. He was constantly teaching and preaching and role modeling how life should look. He was then challenging His disciples to put it all into practice as He stood beside them, elbow to elbow, helping them work out the kinks.

Sure, I spend plenty of time teaching and preaching and hopefully role modeling. What I don’t do is let my kids take on the problem solving themselves. I haven’t let them learn through trial and error. Instead, I do the lazy-mom thing and solve the problems myself, because it’s faster. Then I toss my kids into a situation where they’ve had no practice, and I get frustrated because they’re all thumbs? Shame on me.

So begins the “Instant Challenge” portion of our summer. Instant Challenges are a Destination Imagination thing where teams are given a list of very specific supplies and a problem. In a certain time frame, the team members must agree on a way to solve the problem, and then execute the solution. Typically adults are not allowed to participate or “interfere” in any way.

But God paired me with my kids for a reason, to pass on to them what has been passed on to me. It’s time for me to get right in the trenches with them for our own Instant Challenges on the back deck. Rather than just coaching them, I need to be elbow to elbow with them as we practice solving problems together, as Team McGarry.

Questions For Reflection:

     * Are there certain skills/things I assumed my kids would innately possess?

     * How can I go about teaching those skills/things to my children?


My mom was a guest participant in our “Build A Tower” Instant Challenge.

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