Life of Learning

He squatted down next to me as I sat on the floor.  Parts and pieces spread all over the living room as I stared at the directions trying to put together what would become his favorite toy.  As I picked up the screwdriver and began to go to work, he leaned in to get a better look.  Still crouched down by my side his eyes looked focused, almost mesmerized by each turn of the tool.  I could see the wheels turning in his head as his overwhelming curiosity and desire to help became too much.  He walked over to my tools, picked up another screwdriver and promptly started to turn it clockwise on the hood of the toy car.  His tongue stuck out of his mouth and he furrowed his eyebrows as he struggled to keep the tool from sliding back and forth.  He looked over at me to try and figure out what he might be doing wrong then gave it another shot.  As I attached the last of the toy tires and placed the car on its wheels he smiled at me and nodded approvingly.  Together we had done it!

Our children watch us so intently when they're young.  They follow us around the kitchen when we cook.  They bang away on our keyboards when we give them a chance.  They pick up the phone and pretend to talk because that's what they learned from us.  Everything is so new to them and they want to learn about it all.  Better yet, learning is useful and fun.  Every time they master a new skill it's rewarding.  There's a feeling of accomplishment for both them and us as parents.

Somewhere along the line many of us become afraid to learn.  We feel insecure admitting that we don't know something (think about your parents refusing to learn how to work the VCR).  Maybe we think we're supposed to know everything already.  Maybe we're afraid we won't be able to comprehend something new.  But that's just fear being vulnerable which we've already established is the ultimate sign of courage and confidence. So now it's time to learn.

Think about the wonder and joy of discovery in the eyes of your son or daughter when he or she saw bubbles for the first time.  That's what learning is!  It's discovery over and over again. It's opening your eyes as wide as they can possibly go when you start to understand the possibilities. 

When it comes to learning there are basically three roles you can have: student, teacher, partner.  As Dads we're more willing to play the roll of teacher than you might realize.  Before you freak out, we're not talk about sitting down at a kitchen table trying to explain geometry homework to your kids.  Although, if that is your wheelhouse great!  But did you teach your kid to swing a bat? Bait a hook?  Drive car? All of those things count.  We come to associate learning with the rigid structure of school and that it feels like work.  It doesn't have to.

If you're a Dad like me, you probably struggle with the role of student the most.  Being a student means admitting you have something to learn, often times from a teacher. We don't want to ask for help, so we go on in ignorance.  I don't know about you, but that's not what I want to teach my son, so I had to change.  When it comes to learning think about it this way: teachers throughout our country are paid terribly low salaries (How much would someone have to pay you to watch 20-30 10-year-olds every day?).  So why do they do it?  Teaching is really rewarding.  Skeptical?  Think about how you felt every time your child picked up something you were trying to teach.  It's pretty damn special knowing you helped another human learn something.  So if you find yourself worried about learning from someone else, just think how good you might make them feel if they can help dunces like us learn something new.

Finally, there will be times when you and someone else will have to figure something out on your own.  In this case you will be partners in learning.  So, you're basically a scientist.  Now before you pat yourself on the back there Neil deGrasse Tyson, realize that just means you're experimenting.  The quality of those experiments can vary greatly.  Look no further than your own children to see how primitive these experiments can be.  When they're very young our kids are performing experiments on us and the rest of the world all the time.  They cry to see how we react.  They press every button on the remote control to see what happens.  They throw things at their siblings.  And they repeat these experiments over and over again.  When you're performing an experiment with someone a pretty cool thing happens, you become teammates.  You help each other the same way athletes do.  Sometimes you score, sometimes you assist.  And when you learn something new you're winning. So the next time your kids ask for help with homework figure it out together.

What have you been putting off learning to do?  Why?

What skills do you have that you would like to share?