Not all gifts come wrapped with a bow. Some gifts are less tangible. Some gifts keep on giving years after we are dead and gone.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Each and every one of us has some combination of traits, characteristics and interests that make us who we are. But how did you turn out to be the way that you are? As far as I can tell it’s from a combination of your Parents and outside influences.
If you’re like me, than one of the single biggest influences in shaping you, your morality and your character development can be directly attributed to your parents, your family or some other mentor in you life.
Thanks Dad: My father shaped me into who I am and who gave me the greatest gift of all. A gift that I carry with me everywhere. This gift gives me the confidence to live my life to the fullest in a way that makes me the happiest. My dad gave me ….The gift of an “ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT”.
His name was was Jean-Louis Andre and he was born on December 21st 1929. I always miss him the most right around Christmas time and remember this precious gift that I still carry around with me.
Sure there were other outside forces that helped in the process of your character development like, school, church, friends, sports or other various activities. However, these other things most likely had a fractured influence on you. The real meat of your essence probably comes from your parents or some parental like figure or mentor.
Passing On Values: The Secret Sauce
With regards to my own children, my biggest hope for them is to live their life to the fullest with fewer regrets in life? I think the best gift I can give them is to help shape them into humans who are not afraid to live a little adventurously once in a while. But how the heck DO you teach your kids to be adventurous, take risks and try new things?
To answer this question, I had to think back to my own childhood and examine my own fathers childhood too.
The easiest way for me to explain how my father instilled an adventurous spirit is to show you by telling you a little about my father and my upbringing. Like most parents, my dad taught me the typical things parents wanted or expected of their children.
- Be practical, pragmatic and well grounded
- Don’t lie, steal or cheat.
- Work hard, study hard, do you chores
- Treat others the way you want to be treated and try to help others as much as you can
- yada yada yada.
MODELING: Be a role model
What amazes me is that he was able to instill in me my adventurous sprit without using words. He never said “Annie, I want you to travel and see the world”. Or “ You need to take more risks and try new things even if it’s scary”. In fact, he never said anything even remotely like that AT ALL.Yet, I always tried to be a little different as a girl. My first scary thing I did when I turned 18 was to pack a bag and move to Japan for 3 years.
I am convinced that it was my fathers actions and the way he lived his life outside of conventional wisdom that influenced me and shaped my adventurous side. NOT HIS WORDS
He didn’t know it, but by simply living his values and life the way he did, he was MODELING. NO, not fashion modeling. Modeling is a phenomenon known in social sciences where your actions are a bigger influence on someone than your actual words. For instance, there have been studies done that show that children are over 80% more likely to buckle up if their parents buckle up too. Yes, an actual study was done on this.
I’ve seen this same powerful influence of modeling happen with my own kids.
When I was learning how to bake, that’s all I did for a month. I baked cookies from scratch day and night until I got the knack for it. Now my middle son and my 4 year old daughter love to bake too. They are really into the whole process of baking it’s kind of cute. My son Andre even thinks he might want to be a pastry chef one day. A mom can only dream.
When I taught myself to sew and started making cute little handmade sleeping masks for my business, my son took up crocheting. Yes, boys crochet too ok. Don’t hate! All my kids have a kind of DIY, tinkering nature about them. Which I think is FANTASTIC!
My own father influenced my adventurous side by living his life as a daring adventure. It had such an impact on me that it’s something that I have striven to do also for most of my life.
My DAD: He was a world traveler who lived abroad in Thailand for over a decade back in the 60’s and 70’s. This was before it was considered cool and trendy and before the word lifestyle design became popular.
ME: From the age of 10, I already yearned to travel and see the world.
- In high school I begged my father to send me to Montreal to live with my aunt so I could attend a French high school. Which I did. it was the next best thing to going to Europe for me.
- At 18, I left to live in Japan where I worked doing odd jobs so that I could travel through Asia and Europe for 3 1/2 years.
- Now after four years of college, over a decade in the corporate world, 3 kids and 2 marriages, my husband and I are living in France on a family sabbatical of sorts with our three kids.
Rewind: Dying the way you lived
It wasn’t just his travelling that influenced me. It was the things that he accomplished, the way he lived and even the way he died.
Death: Years ago, when I was 21, my dad tried to be a good Samaritan by stopping the getaway car of a robber who had just robbed our local grocery store. He was struck and thrown 30 feet in the air and landed on his head. He died 3 days later from massive head trauma leaving me and my then 14 year old brother alone in the world.
Life: he lived a life that he wanted to live and as a result, he was a bit unconventional in his ways.
Not only was he a world traveler, he also had a pilots license, owned a single engine plane, lived abroad in several Asian countries totalling almost 15 years and spoke 4 languages. French, English, mandarin Chinese and Thai. I have photos of my dad climbing coconut trees, holding snakes and doing things that most people from Canada or the U.S. just didn’t do in the 60’s and 70’s.
Being Adventurous in spite of…But how DID he get to be so adventurous?
As far as I can tell, my dad lived adventurously in spite of his parents. Maybe it was because of the times he grew up in that lead him to be more adventurous. At this point I am only speculating.
He grew up DIRT POOR in Quebec Canada. When I say poor I mean like depression era poor, where they only had one frying pan in their house and didn’t always have enough to eat. At 15, he left his home to go live and work on his grandparents farm to earn some money. I think that one act alone, of leaving his home as a teenager might have been the catalyst that propelled him and gave him the courage to travel even further and live his life more adventurously.
Around the age of 22, he left Canada and immigrated to Boston Massachusetts in the U.S. where he learned to speak English. I still remember his funny Bostonian and French accent that was so uniquely him.
Eventually he joined the military to get an education in engineering. Somehow he ended up a pilot and working in Thailand for the airforce in a city called Udon Thani. He lived in Thailand for over a decade and married my mother who was Thai. I was born a few years later in the 70’s and lived in Thailand until I was almost five years old. Ironically, my first language is Thai, but I no longer speak it. (Use it or lose it people)
Fun fact: About my place of birth:
If you are not familiar with Air America or Udon Thani Thailand, there was a movie loosely based off of this operation called…Surprise “Air America” starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey JR. You can read more about the Air America operation here on Wikipedia.
Living Like An American
We left Thailand and settled in California after my mother passed away in a bus accident. Dad tried to live a conventional life. Perhaps more for my sake than his. Or maybe it was because he had had his fill of travel and adventure. I’ll never know.
Trying to blend in
Despite his best efforts to blend in, dad couldn’t resist the pull of his adventurous spirit because although we lived in the suburbs and he had a great job as an engineer working at National Semiconductor, we didn’t always live, act or look like typical Americans.
For starters, dad remarried a woman who he met in Taiwan. (Dad went to Taiwan often to train his counterparts.) Her name was Shew Chang and she raised me until she passed away when I was 14. (Yes, there were a lot of deaths in our family. It made for a very international and eclectic household: Try as they might, we didn’t always fit the classic image of the American household.
My Unconventional Childhood Home
Growing up all I ever wanted to be was normal. I thought we were anything but normal and I was embarrassed of my family because of our differences.
- Birthday parties were horrible as far as I was concerned. I hated the fact that my dad didn’t have hot dogs and hamburgers and cake at my birthday party like Vicki V. did at her party. Nooo, we had to have Pad Thai and garlic with black bean crab with a mung bean desert. Not exactly a child friendly meal in our neighborhood.
- Instead of camping in the back yard or at camp sites, we spent summers in Thailand or Taiwan.
- On one of our summer trips abroad, Instead of a dog, I got a pet monkey.
- Exotic for us wasn’t Mexican food, but rather fish eyeball soup, chicken feet and turtle soup. “YES I know, not good”.
- Instead of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Pop music, I loved Asian Pop and Euro trash.
- Instead of baking cookies, we made Asian dumplings and had Asian dumpling making parties.
I could go on and on.
Appreciating the difference
Needless to say, I wasn’t very popular in school. I didn’t really fit in with the Asians and I didn’t fit in with all the white kids. (that’s the major down fall of being a Hapa as the Hawaiians call it.) But I can appreciate it now for what it is.
I’m glad that I didn’t have a typical upbringing. Growing up different than others around me was in a way, my own little adventure and it gave me the confidence I have now to make life choices that might go against the social grains of our society.
What Can The Average Person Do With Their Kids
Which brings me back to my original question of “how the heck to teach kids to be more adventurous”.
Well, you don’t’ have to do anything extreme like travelling and spending summers in Thailand, Taiwan or move to France: unless that’s what tickles your fancy. You can do small little things everyday to instill a sense of adventure simply by doing new things or exploring the unknown. You might already be doing this without even knowing it Just like my parents did for me.
- Introduce foreign foods to your kids. I’ve been feeding my kids cuisine from all over the world since they were born. As a result, I don’t have very many problems with my kids eating habits. They eat just about anything including Kimchee the stinky Korean cabbage.
- Sign them up for a sport. My kids didn’t do much basketball or football. We lived by the San Francisco bay so they took part in a youth sailing program. Sports are a great way to instill a sense of outdoor sports adventure.
- Learn a language together for the fun of it. Japanese, Arabic or ???? I was lucky, I already spoke French so I’ve been teaching it to my kids since they were young. My youngest daughter is fluent in French and probably speaks better French than English. Had I not spoken French, I might have learned a second language alongside with her. You can do a self paced lesson with software programs like Rosetta Stone.
- Give your kids music lesson: Instead of piano, what about an accordion? Ok, that’s my dream. That and the musical saw. Don’t ask.
These are just a few of the many things you can do to grow your kids adventurous spirit.
Not only will it be fun and interesting. It will give them the confidence to be more intentional with their life choices rather than letting life slip by.
I may also give them the confidence and guts to be adventurous and live outside of the conventional bell curve so that they can create a life based on who they are, not what society tells them they have to do or how they are supposed to live.
BEST GIFT EVER
Passing on my adventurous spirit to my kids is the best gift I can give them because I know they will remember it long after I’m long gone just I like I remember my own father.
Thanks Dad. I wish you were here today to see me and your 3 grandkids. I love you!
Merry Christmas Everyone From Our Family To Yours
French: Joyeux Noel, Chinese: (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan, Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai, Japanese: Shinnen omedeto