By Lara Krupicka
During a short vacation, my children and I stopped for a candy factory tour. The girls weren’t impressed by the video and tram drive through the warehouse. They had expected to see the real thing. The following day we paid a visit to a bakery owned by friends. After we ogled the cakes and cookies in the display cases, our owner friend asked, “Have you ever seen how a bakery works?” My three girls’ enthusiastic “no!” set them off on a tour through the behind-the-scenes workings of a real bakery – no videos and boxes, but honest-to-goodness mega-sized mixers, walk-in refrigerators, and racks of cooling cakes.
While it may not come around often, that magical phrase (in the right context) can be a cue that opportunity awaits. “Have you ever” is frequently a call to adventure. Here are the ways it can open up new experiences for your family, and why you as a parent should be ready to drop any other plans and embrace that call when you hear it:
Experience a “First”
A “have you ever” invitation worth accepting is often expressed in settings where the person asking can safely assume a “no” answer. While you may not have planned to explore that activity or setting, an invitation from an insider can yield pleasant surprises. And what better way to experience something new than alongside an individual familiar with it.
Go Behind the Scenes
When they sense a receptive audience, professionals, business owners, coaches, and others may open up spaces normally off-limits to the public. We all like to share our lives and these folks are no different. So when you are asked whether you have ever seen the inner workings of an establishment (as with our baker friend), or sat in a reserved section of a venue, or ridden in a special vehicle – followed by an invitation to do so, jump at the opportunity.
Ask your host if you can pause for a moment to prepare. Then take your children aside and review basic ground rules regarding touching, respecting the space, and other applicable etiquette. No matter how well mannered your children are, it’s helpful not to assume they will know how to behave in this new situation. Keep your instructions brief and upbeat. Encourage them to ask questions and be prepared to accept further invitations, such as if they’re invited to sample a product or test out a piece of equipment.
Learn From a Master
When you are watching a professional at their trade or sport, you may find them responsive to interested youngsters. If your child is invited to join in, help them step forward. They will be receiving tips from an expert. They can ask questions about techniques or skills. And it can help to hear how long this person has been working at what they do and what it took to build up to the level they have achieved.
After a magic show at her local library, Robyn Whitlock’s sons approached the performer. He asked them to show him some of their tricks and expressed his amazement at their skill. Then he offered a few tips. He spent at least a half hour one-on-one with the boys.
“Any time you’re with someone who is a professional like that it inspires you to go further with it and to learn more,” Whitlock says. “After that they did tons of magic to try to get better.”
Encounter (And Practice) Generosity
Whenever someone asks the question “have you ever” they’re about to give you something – whether it be their time, their expertise, or their access. Point out to your children this generosity as you discuss the experience afterwards. When possible, help your kids write and send a note of thanks to the people who made the experience possible.
You can train your kids to be generous in the same way by finding something you do that others may not have experienced. For instance, each year we make homemade applesauce using a special food mill. And every fall we invite one or more of our girls’ friends to join us in cranking applesauce. We ask, “Have you ever made applesauce?”
Inviting others to join you increases the enjoyment of what could otherwise be an ordinary activity for your family. And it allows you to share what you have. In our house, everyone samples hot applesauce when it’s ready. And often we send home a container with our helpers.
Take an adventure-seeking mindset with you and you’ll be ready to answer “have you ever” with a “no, but I’d love to.” You never know what you’ll experience because of it.
Lara Krupicka is a parenting journalist and author of Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie Into Every Day. She’s also mom to three girls who are learning to seize invitations to try new things.