Yesterday I chaperoned five third-grade girls on a field trip to the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City. When we came out of the parking garage to head home, we were surprised to find it was snowing. The gray sky and thick sleet on the freeway made me rather nervous to be driving. It was nice that, for once, the Utah drivers around me slowed down to the speed limit to accommodate for the conditions. The girls weren't phased at all. They laughed and talked and sang songs without a care for anything else. It reminded me of a similar trip when my mom was the one driving me and my friends home. I was fourteen or so, and my mom was driving a group of us home from a youth activity skiing or snow tubing. It was dark, we were driving through a thick snowstorm, coming home through a canyon, and we kids were being loud. I remember my mom asking us to settle down and recognizing that she was on edge to be driving that night. But I also remember not being worried because things always turned out fine. It's part of that invincibility that teenagers experience where they don't think anything truly bad will happen to them.
It got me thinking about a basic belief of my childhood. I remember often thinking that adults obviously knew what was the right course of action and would take care of us kids. That's a good sense of security as far as having a safe home and family. But I think I took it too far and stayed naive for too long in my understanding about the way the world works. Specifically, I applied this notion to government. I always assumed that there is a best way to run things and the people in office can obviously see that best way and run things accordingly. I never imagined there was so much room for opinion and debate, even on issues that seem so black and white to me. On the one hand, it's a little scary to be part of a system that just kind of feels its way along. I frequently get frustrated that our society and government seem to be making the same decisions that didn't work well in our history. (I'm not going to get specific, because that would just open up debate on certain issues, which isn't my purpose here.) On the other hand, I really enjoy getting an understanding of others' opinions. It's intriguing to me to hear callers on radio shows, poll results, or friends and family that oppose my own opinions. I like to try to understand where they are coming from and weigh their thoughts against my own in making decisions. (Radio show hosts don't do that as much for me because I can usually predict what they will say about a given issue.)
What all these memories and thoughts have prompted in me is the need to provide--as much as is within my power--not only a secure home for my children, but also opportunities for them to think for themselves. I need to take the time to listen to their thought processes and ask questions to make them think deeper. I believe giving them the skill to think through situations and problems before committing to a course of action will be a great tool in their lives.
What are your thoughts?