Nov 28, 2011 0 Share

Dinner and Dancing

Close-up of board game pieces.

We're that family. That one that has dinner together every night, at an actual table, and the adults at the table do their best to get the offspring to converse. Well, my eight-year- old daughter has no problems in the conversation area. I guess it's more accurate to say the three of us try to get Cameron to interact with us. One easy way we've found of engaging Cameron is through board games. We regularly clear the table and grab from our collection of family-friendly games which are close at hand. Some of our favorites are Uno, Sleeping Queens, Spot It and Zingo. And unlike eating salad, Cameron actually enjoys this bit of our dinner ritual. (Until we suggest playing Spoons, but that's another story.) 

I was recently in our neighborhood toy store, and grabbed one of those impulse buys at the register. It was a little round box that said "Family Dinner Box of Questions." It cost around $5, and it was the best $5 I've ever spent. Inside this little box are 42 questions designed to start a conversation. There's no real winner or loser in this game. At least I don't think there is, as I never read the instructions, but instead just opened the box and started asking questions to the family. Playing this game has been an eye opening experience. 

Last night, the question read was: "What is the most important lesson your parents have taught you?" My husband replied that his parents instilled in him a moral compass and a sense for what is right and wrong. I said my parents taught me the importance of family time and being together as a unit. When it was Cameron's turn to respond, he didn't even have to think about his answer. He said, "The most important thing Mom has taught me is how to ride the Metro. Now I can go places on my own. And I don't have to worry about running out of money on my Metro card because she taught me how to put more money on it using my bank card. She also taught me how to track how much money I have in the bank by putting things on that list." I wish someone had taken a picture of my face at that moment! I wanted to do the Snoopy dance on our kitchen table! 

It's one thing to teach our children valuable life lessons. But when a child actually expresses gratitude and appreciation for learning that lesson … How often does that happen? 

Of course, I've previously pontificated about Cameron's Metro riding capabilities. He's now better and more confident about it than I am myself. In August, I opened a checking account for Cameron and started paying him his allowance in monthly installments via online deposits. In addition to his spending money, I deposit money for his prescription co-pays and his Metro card fare. He and I went over his monthly budget, and he withdraws his weekly allowance from the ATM machine. When his inhaler counter reaches 10, he orders a refill on the phone, and picks it up on his own when it's ready. He understands when to use his debit card and when to use cash, based on the instructions I've given him. I've made a spreadsheet that is his checkbook register, and he tracks his purchases diligently. He doesn't rely on his online banking application to obtain his balance. He understands to importance of tracking his debits himself.

All these lessons are very important independent living skills. Ones, I might add, that cost a pretty penny if you're paying someone to teach them in a postsecondary environment. I'm fortunate that Cameron has taken these lessons to heart, and has made the job of teaching them to him an easy one. But the best thing by far is the fact that Cameron understands the value of these lessons, and even better, he has expressed gratitude for learning these life skills. Cue the Snoopy Dance theme.