Saturday, September 28, 2013
When I was growing up, my mother made bread every week. One week she would make white bread, the next wheat and the next French bread. Every Saturday I could be found in the kitchen, chattering at her as she expertly kneaded our bread on the antique dining table that graced our tiny kitchen. When the bread was supple and silky, she would have me wash my hands, flour them, and then push the dough around a few times, showing me how to use the heal of my hand to knead the bread well. By the time I was 8, I knew how to make bread perfectly - or so I thought.
Many years later, I was a new wife, a young mother and a fledgling housekeeper. Drawing upon my vast home economic skills, I proceeded to whip up a bread dough, knead it to perfection and set it to rise. Imagine my surprise when I lifted the towel covering my dough, only to discover a dense, pale blob of cold, raw dough. The dough was solid, having not risen even one tiny little bit! I was thrust into the depths of despair. This couldn't be - I had been baking bread since I was knee-high to a grasshopper! Or had I?
The truth of the matter is that I had been hanging onto my mother's coat-tails. A majority of my supposed home-making skills were not mine - rather I had borrowed them from my mother - and the funny thing about borrowed skills is that you have to give them back.
The next two years of my life were dedicated to transforming my home-making efforts into honest to goodness skills rather than an inherited legacy. I spent hours talking to my mom, reading books and trying recipe after recipe. I kneaded bread and kneaded bread and kneaded yet more bread. I failed - tried again - failed and tried just one more time. Finally, after more disappointments than I can count, I learned how to make a simple, lowly loaf of bread. This wasn't my mother's bread, using borrowed skills - this was my bread - made from the hard-won wisdom of trial and error and perseverance -fresh from the oven and perfect! I was officially a bread-baker in my own right.
Our children have grown up immersed in the self-sufficient lifestyle. Most of them have never known grid-power, flushing toilets or store-bought bread. They have grown up baking on a wood cookstove, canning venison and making soap. They have survival skills that most people would envy - but are they really their skills?
For the most part, we have included our children in all aspects of our survivalist lifestyle. They hunt with us, they bake with us, they cook with us and they shoot with us. Everything we do, there are our children, right beside us. However, just being with us doesn't guarantee that we are transferring our skills and knowledge. Our children have to be actively involved - even to the point of being allowed to fail. What does that look like? It looks like an apple pie - hot and bubbling - being dropped onto the open door of a hot wood cookstove because a certain young lady didn't have a proper hold on it as she brought it out of the oven. It looks like a pair of Kevlar saw chaps with a gaping hole across the thigh reminding a young man to always have a solid grip on a powerful chainsaw. Teaching our children the skills of life means letting them get dirty and learn through experience. It means that we have to be willing to let them make a mess, do things the hard way and yes, even fail.
We have some acquaintances who are striving to live a preparedness lifestyle. Although not originally country-folk, they are making a Herculean effort to become self-reliant survivalists. Their children were young when the family made the transition to country life and now, as teenagers, they truly believe that they are the ultimate survivalists. The only problem? The children have absolutely no survival skills. They assume, since they have watched their mother (the father really isn't involved in much - other than physically being there) milk the cow, gather the eggs, grow the garden and make the cheese, that they know how to do all those things - but they don't. In fact, they don't really have any skills of their own - although they believe otherwise. These children have mistaken their legacy for their skill set.
It is really easy to forget our children's skill level (or lack thereof) in our earnestness to prepare our families. We have to actively cultivate skills in our children rather than allowing them to borrow ours. When the lights go out, the only skills your children will be able to rely upon with be their own - the ones you cared to instill in them.
Don't just assume that your children are learning alongside of you - give them the opportunity to learn for themselves. Don't ever allow them place their trust in borrowed skills. Make sure they are equipped with the real thing.