When they are older, we teach about family traditions. We teach them family history by telling stories about our ancestors and what life was like for us as kids. We teach holiday traditions: they learn that we celebrate Thanksgiving with a family trip and that they can look forward to a week at the shore in the summertime. They find out that Santa brings presents and the tooth fairy brings money, and that at Christmastime Grandpa lets them drink from his whiskey glass when Mommy leaves the room.
A more mature age is needed to teach kids about the nuances of human relationships, like how to forgive a friend, or how to encourage each other, or how many days the silent treatment lasts when Daddy complains to Mommy about how long he has to “babysit.”
By far the most entertainment I’ve gotten from teaching my children is through helping them discover and develop their senses of humor. They are old enough to tell a joke, play a prank, and see humor in everyday situations. I’ve taught my daughter how to make fart noises into the crook of her elbow, and my son how to rig the kitchen sprayer to soak an unsuspecting victim.
Unfortunately, kids will pick up things that aren’t meant to be taught. For instance, you may find yourself being asked to define a swear word, or you may even hear your child use one incorrectly, adding another lesson to your repertoire. They may reveal to strangers private information, like when my daughter told her friend’s mother that I got sick on vacation because I drank too much beer. Then you have to reinforce rules that certain information isn’t meant for public consumption. (Too be fair, I was sick afterwards. Incidentally, I drank rum on vacation, not beer.)
Despite my zeal about life education, I worry about the appropriateness of certain lessons. Are my children old enough to responsibly use the terms “banana hammock” and “over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder?” Can they find the subtle humor in the poem “Milk, milk, lemonade. Around the corner, fudge is made?” Can they learn to use it appropriately?
Only time will tell. That, and possibly a call from school. Or maybe a friend’s irate parent.