What to show your kids…when you live in Wichita, KS

My parents use to love taking my brother and I for day-trips on Sundays, when we were in elementary school.  Mostly these ended up in small towns in Kansas, towns with one grocery store, one gas station, and only one place to eat.  A few times during these Sunday drive we would end up about  80 miles Southwest of our home in Wichita, Kansas at a place called the Gypsum Hills (or the Red Hills).
For a little kid it was cool.  We’d ride in the car “forever” and then get out and run around, climb hills and collect pieces of gypsum.  Good times!

What I realized when I was much older was that my parents weren’t just coming up with crazy day-trips to keeps up from watching TV all Sunday.  They were attempting to expose us to different scenery from the typical flat-lands of Wichita.  It’s the same reason that we went to “young peoples” symphony concerts, art museums, and hung out all week at Riverfest (there are plenty of life lessons to be in watching a bath tub boat race).  It wasn’t just exposure to culture, but a desire to give us a broader picture of what life had to offer.  My mother, who grew up in Dallas, TX, and my father a”h, who grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania wanted to give us an appreciation for the arts and nature.  My brother, as a result, became very attached to nature, while I ended up spending many afternoons at that MoMA.

The underlying theme of these Sunday trips and countless schlepping to various locations was that giving us a view of the “bigger picture” was a good thing.  Today, as a parent of a daughter who is almost 4, a daughter who is a 3rd grader, and a son who is a 5th grader, I see the importance of this.  Letting my kids see the bigger picture is key.  It helps to give them a frame of reference (and reverence).  That’s why I try to point out when someone does a Chessed (kindness) for someone else or when I see an older man or woman davening with real kavanah (concentration), a person who gets new eye glasses l’Kavod Shabbos Kodesh, or an individual who has daily challenges and still remains postive.  Those are things that I value.  I’m not anti “the arts” nor am I against showing my kids the beauty of Hashem’s world, we do those things, too (mostly as age-appropriately as I can).

I think most parents want the best for their own children and attempt to give them/expose them to ideas and values that are dear to them.  As I get really to start a New Year, I hope that what I show my children (via my own behavior) things that can have a positve impact on them.

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