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Coming of Age, No Matter What Age You Are
Claire Potter faced this conundrum with her 13-year-old son, whom she describes in the Guardian as being "eager for more freedom and independence" but also "a boy who hated sustained effort and shied away from any kind of system or daily ritual." So she devised 13 challenges, each of which played to his strengths while also addressing real-life issues. The challenges are inventive and inspiring; for example, the first was "Get on a train on your own. Get off at the 13th stop. Go to a sit-down cafe or restaurant. Order the 13th item on the menu. Then buy yourself a whole outfit with £13.13."
First of all, what a brilliant parenting move. Since she helped him to buy the ticket and they live in a rural area, Potter was able to present the train trip as a grown-up adventure, while also being able to keep tabs on his whereabouts. And the challenge truly does help him to hone some adult skills. But upon reading this I thought, not just, wow, that does sound like a very practical and also fun challenge, but also, Wait, I want to do that! I go places and buy things all the time. But taking the train to a place I've never been -- just because? Ordering a randomly preselected item on the menu? What a fun way to add secret sparkles of fun to every day.
The challenges span from learning and performing a piano piece in public to completing 13 household chores to creating a self-portrait of himself to learning Hungarian. As Potter puts it, the real lesson she hopes her son will learn is "that life is full of possibility and playfulness if you want it to be." Which is something we could all stand to learn, no matter how old we are. (Read the whole essay for Potter's inventive ideas for challenging your children -- or yourself.)
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