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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published July 21 2013

Ms. Simplicity: Help kids learn to do new things

Think about it: When was the last time you took a needle and thread out and repaired a hole in your sock?

Chances are, if you are younger than I am, you have never done it. We live in a consumable society where we can buy six pairs of socks for $6. We don’t think twice before we throw them in the trash.

Things we did as children and young adults are going the way of technology and consumerism. While mowing the lawn this week, I had flashbacks to mowing as a kid. I didn’t have a self-propelled mower or one that mulched. I had to push that mower with muscle and empty each and every grass clipping bag into my mom’s garden for a natural weed barrier.

The worst had to be trimming the lawn edge by hand with a large pair of garden sheers. I would be on my knees clipping each six-inch section at a time. Now with my power trimmer I am done with the yard in less than 10 minutes.

Are our kids missing out on some “fun” of our youth by no longer learning these skills? I am sure it is the advancement of technology that generations have been seeing. I am sure my grandma was amazed when she took her first airplane ride, as she grew up in the vast prairie in a sod house in western North Dakota.

Kids “these days” are taught some basic skills in the family and consumer science classes in middle school. But there isn’t enough time to explore the interest of every student. I wonder, are we doing our kids a disservice by not having them learn how to do things anymore? Are we enabling them and coddling them so much that they can’t do the basics in life?

One friend said his college-bound son doesn’t even know how to make toast. Well, my kids can make toast. But up until my youngest turned 13, I was making my boys’ lunches in the summer. Now they fend for themselves, and I hope they eat during the day while I plug away in my home office. They know that I will not stop and make them lunch and that they are on their own.

I know I am not alone in this. I discussed the topic with a group of friends this weekend. One friend shared how her 19-year-old son wanted to change the oil in his car. He asked his dad about it and determined that he didn’t have the necessary tools. Plus, he’s never learned how to change the oil. Grandpa was in the car and he said he hadn’t learned how to change the oil either. All the while mom was there waiting to be asked – because she knew how to change the oil, and her dad had all the tools to teach the grandson how to change the oil.

Some may wonder why not drive to a quick lube place? But there is something in learning how to do something that none of your friends knows how to do. My 17-year-old son wanted to learn how to knit this winter. He found a class and signed up on his own and went to learn to knit. I never learned so I couldn’t teach him. Yes, he was the only one of the male gender there, but he liked it. He liked it so much that his girlfriend got a pair of fingerless gloves for Christmas.

It was a proud moment, knowing that he had learned a skill that most of his friends don’t know. Will this skill take him places in life? Probably not in the traditional sense, but it him taught him how to relax, as relaxing when his Crohn’s is flaring is an important part of staying healthy.

So listen to your kids when they say they want to learn a new skill. Don’t fret if you don’t know how to do the skill. Chances are, you have a friend or neighbor who can teach you or your child. We live in incredible communities where lessons are taught every day on how to do things.

I taught my son’s girlfriend last week how to make an omelet. She was proud and there possibly was even a picture on Instagram of it. But if you know how to build a rocket or take apart a computer, teach your kids how to do it now.

I would like to see a generation of kids who are learning how to crochet instead of watching how many up votes their post on Reddit received. I truly believe our kids want to learn how to do these things, but we are just a “busy” generation of parents.

So stop and bake a cake from scratch with homemade buttercream. Stop and change your own oil, even if it costs more. Stop and darn a sock, which may turn into learning how to knit a pair of socks.

Plus while you are teaching those skills some fantastic conversations may just happen as an added bonus.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Her website can be found at www.mssimplicity.com/ See more at: http://mssimplicity.areavoices.com/#sthash.Tyyny0k6.dpuf