Frequently the most important lessons we can teach our children are best done without words. Nonverbal teaching helps to avoid the parent-is-talking filter that seems to reside within the inner ear of all children. Travelling with children is a first-class way of imparting the messages so often blocked by our kids’ internal editors. Our family recently returned from a trip that, as well as being relaxing and fun, taught important lessons more eloquently than I could have.
Our trip took us to Ecuador where we spent time with good friends who recently moved back there. Our friends, E and N and their kids R and S, invited us to E’s father’s tiny farm in the Ecuadorian cloud rainforest. Lessons abounded at the farm. The most immediately evident one involved the importance of hard work. Someone was always working at the farm. E’s brothers and fathers walked the cows to and from the pasture, milked them and cleaned their stall. They fed and cleaned the pigs stalls and cared for the chickens. Whenever the never-ending repairs need to be done on the farm, they do them. E’s mother and sisters constantly worked as well. The arose early, and began to prepare food to replenish those who gathered and milked the cows. Once, the prepared food, which was delicious, was eaten, E’s mother and sisters began on lunch, then dinner. All the time we were at the farm, I never saw his mother more than five feet from the kitchen. Keeping everyone fueled for the daily grind is a herculean task.
My boys loved the food they ate, and this served as another lesson well taught. The meals featured ingredients that had all come from the farm. There was nothing processed or artificially sweet or salty. Like all good parents, we have encouraged our boys to eat healthy food, but our words frequently fall on deaf ears. E’s mother’s meals were just what the doctor ordered. “This is the best food I’ve ever had!” our youngest marveled. And it was good for him too.
The positive messages concerning healthy living did not stop at the dinner table. Rather than passing the time sitting in front of a TV (which I am sad to report my boys are doing right now), J and L happily followed R and S on walks through the jungle (machete in hand). They also played soccer and frolicked with the seven totally dirty and mostly sweet dogs who live on the farm. Rather than play video games, they played in local rivers. The wholesome living seemed nearly as foreign as the land in which we were, but they engaged in it, and they loved it.
One does not need to voyage far to experience people engaged in grueling work. One need not take a plane to eat food that is good for you. And one doesn’t need a passport to find enjoyment outside of electronics. The process of going somewhere foreign, however, opened my boys’ minds to possibilities that they would not have considered at home. This added dimension of receptivity allowed J and L to accept experiences that they normally would have rejected. During our voyage, the boys gained insight into other ways of living. They dallied in novel behaviors and experiences.
Hard Work Is Important. Healthy Food Can Be Good. You Can Have Fun Without Turning On The TV Or XBOX.
Three nuggets of parental wisdom successfully imparted – and I didn’t need to open my mouth.