A Bucket List is a list of things you want to do before you die. I’ve made one for my parenting that lists the things I want my daughters to learn. These are things that I panic about if my kids are not learning. You might think some of them—“learn the Fox Trot,” for example—are bucking ridiculous. But each parent has a different list, a list that comes from a combination of things they did that worked, things they wanted to do as a child but couldn’t, or things that they gave up on and shouldn’t have.
For example, although I took ballet classes with Madame Toesea (pronounced toes-ee-yay, would you believe – and she was terrible) – I never took regular dance lessons. As a result, at dances and weddings (including my own) whenever people got up to dance, I spent a lot of time glued to my chair, worrying. I don’t want that for my kids. I wouldn’t feel this way if I had taken lessons when I was a kid, so it’s on the list.
My Bucket List
1. Play the violin
This is my bottom line. I played violin as a child and was good. My biggest regret is that I squandered my potential in high school, when I turned down a violin scholarship to a virtuoso program because I wanted to follow my friends and attend a co-ed school. So obviously, I’m living vicariously through my kids, and some parents would say this is terrible. Sure, living vicariously through your kid might be a questionable thing to do, but perhaps it’s evolution. And: just listen to Fiona play!
How We Are Doing: Grade – A+, and may I stress that I am not a Tiger Mom. It’s my husband who is a Panda Dad.
2. Speak a second language
This is a sore spot for me – my mother was a linguist and a language professor who spoke 5 languages (Lithuanian, Russian, German, French, and English). She didn’t teach me any of them, except English, which out of all of them, is pretty gosh-darn useful. I think it was because after WW II, like many survivors, she wanted to shut the door on her past. Every year she’d invite her students over for a party, and they’d file into the house saying, Wie geht’s? and expect me to answer in German, but I couldn’t.
How We Are Doing: Grade – F. Kids watch Muzzy in Spanish, Sleeping Beauty in French. Okay, pathetic. Their school doesn’t teach languages, and we don’t have time to go to another class. All I can do right now is panic.
3. Know how to play chess
My husband spent a lot of his childhood competing in chess tournaments, and there is a direct connection between his knowledge of the game and his ability to think strategically. More than any other area of study, chess taught him how to think on his toes.
How We Are Doing: Grade – B-. They know how to move the pieces and play, but we need to play more often. The good news is that Ella, age 7, can sometimes beat me now.
4. Know how to dance
I’m not saying I want them on Dancing With the Stars – I just want them to know how to waltz so they can get up off their chairs at weddings, and do more than a lame-assed two-step to the Bee Gees, like me.
How We Are Doing: Grade – B. They do Irish dance, which is fun but useless at weddings. We’ll enroll them in basic dance classes when they’re 11 or 12 so they can at least waltz with confidence.
5. Be money savvy
Knowing how to make, save, spend, and donate money is the most important thing to know but it’s not taught at school, and most parents would rather talk about sex or drugs than money. Most of us subconsciously learn what we know about money from our families. My parents never said no. They totally over-indulged me. They gave me their credit cards along with a sense of entitlement and financial confusion. I would over-spend because I had no idea how to value things. It took me a long time to understand money, and I still struggle with it. I don’t want my children to be a victim of their own financial ignorance.
How We Are Doing: Grade – C. I can say no, but I’m too disorganized to consistently give them an allowance. I should have a chart system and pay them for bigger chores but haven’t gotten around to it. They lost the plugs to their piggy banks so they don’t have a place to put money. I’m usually too overwhelmed at the grocery store to teach them much there either. I just started reading Raising Financially Fit Kids, and am going to investigate Susan Beacham’s Money Savvy Pig website.
6. Get involved in church and have a faith
I grew up having to hide my belief in God because I was surrounded by atheists who ridiculed people of faith. Going through life without a belief in God leaves you spiritually handicapped, because your existence lacks meaning. Without faith, people get depressed. Children need rituals, spiritual community, and the comfort of belief.
How We Are Doing: Grade – B. We are members of a wonderful, vibrant, kid-friendly church but haven’t gone for the past several weeks because of number 8 on this list.
7. Know how to read a map
If I didn’t have a nav system in my car I would probably be driving through deepest Africa right now, totally lost. I never learned how to read a map or ride public transportation, and to this day I struggle with knowing where the hell I am and how to get anywhere. I envy people who can read maps. Being able to read maps and find your way around matters.
How We Are Doing: Grade – B. When we go places, my husband helps the children read maps and challenges them to find their way on public transportation.
8. Ski with confidence
I am a bunny sloper, so I want them to be good at skiing.
How We Are Doing: Grade – A-. They attend ski camps, and we enrolled in a family ski development program that meets every other Sunday. Now Fiona can ski black diamonds, and Ella can go down the bunny slope (and so do I, still).
9. Have a healthy relationship with food and self-image
How We Are Doing: Grade – B. For the most part we eat healthy, whole foods, don’t let them drink soda, and don’t put sugary treats in their lunch boxes. They eat a lot of sushi and love meat and salads. I don’t have a healthy self-image (which I inherited from my mom) and can’t manufacture one so I worry about passing this on to my daughters.
10. Go to college
How We Are Doing: Grade – A (but they’re still in elementary school, ahem). One thing that helped me get into college was the expectation in my family that we would go to college, then grad school. It wasn’t considered optional, it was just something you did. We do everything we can to support their school, help them value education, and brainwash them into going to college. For example, the other day Ella asked me when she will have a baby and after waxing poetic about love and marriage, I included the phrase, “after you finish graduate school, love-bug.”
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