Teaching Kids to Live Life to the Fullest


In between “Baby Be My Love Song” and “You Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” I heard an interesting story on the radio yesterday about living life to the full. A British newspaper has come out with a list of 39 ultimate life-fulfilling experiences. The DJs went on to tell the first five which are

  1. Get married in Vegas
  2. Dive with sharks
  3. Surf in Hawaii
  4. Fly on a private jet
  5. Date a model

Out of the two DJs, only one had done one of these – get married in Vegas – no surprise since I was listening to a country music station in Atlanta.

Those of you who know me know that I am up for adventure. I ran a marathon to celebrate turning 40, have experienced the Cristo in Rio, gone skydiving with students after graduation, and hiked the Cinque Terre. When I asked my 15 year old what she was looking at on her phone last night, she replied she was looking at huts over the water in Bora Bora for vacation; she is already wired for adventure. But in this social media driven society, we are doing our students an injustice to lead them to believe that making the most out of life comes in the big moments. Living life to the fullest actually comes in how one embraces the everyday, ordinary life, and this is what we need to be teaching and modeling to the next generation. So here are my top five picks for living life to the fullest:

1. Have family dinners (or breakfast or lunch) together. Family dinners are becoming a thing of the past as more parents are running kids from one activity to the next in hopes to help them get ahead in life or to pursue a scholarship for college. This goes beyond family dinners – play games at night, work puzzles, or take walks as a family. Sadly, My family eating and talking over poppy seed chicken then playing spades doesn’t make for an exciting Instagram post. Quality family time does happen in the car while traveling from one activity to the next; intentionally schedule large amounts of relaxed time with family. I know this is stepping on some of my friend’s toes, but families are about the whole family, not completely focused on a child’s pursuit.

2. Serve others. Serving others allows us to look past ourselves often helping us appreciate what we have and what’s important in life. Serving can provide purpose in life. Take this a step further and don’t post pictures of yourself serving on social media. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, tutor, take a meal to a sick friend, grade some essays for your favorite teacher – the possibilities are endless.

3. Make your own birthday cakes. I am not a cake decorator, but I am cheap which has led me to years of making birthday cakes. I have made armadillo cakes, doughnut cakes, and princess cakes. Life is truly not complete until you bake a cake in a bowl, turn it upside down, break the legs off of a Barbie, and stick the Barbie in the “skirt.” This idea is less about cake making and more about adopting a lifestyle of simplicity and creativity. Some of our best family memories are figuring out how to make parties fun without spending tons of money, building forts on rainy days in the family room, or camping in the backyard. Don’t deprive your kids of the fun of dreaming and creating.

4. Spend time getting to know your neighbors. Society has made the shift of sitting on the front porch drinking Arnold Palmers to pulling in our garages, shutting the door, and sitting on the back deck if we go outside at all after work. We miss getting to know different types of people with interesting stories. Our neighbor Jeff is an award winning rock collector (who knew this even existed), so when my daughter and her friend had to do a project on rocks, Jeff pulled out all kinds of rocks and got two tween girls excited about studying geology. I couldn’t have done that. We host a neighborhood open house every New Year’s Day, and one year our neighbor from Russia brought her father, a classical pianist from St. Petersburg who played beautiful concertos amid the conversations of Walking Dead sightings and redneck caviar. Take time for relationships.

5. Read. Not only does reading keep your mind active, reading, more importantly, expands your mind giving you different perspectives and things to think and talk about. Reading provides knowledge, offers escape, and builds common ground. Don’t be afraid to read things you don’t agree with. Read alone, read as a family, read in book clubs – just read.

And since it’s summer offering me more time to write, here’s a bonus:

Go to church. Aside from connecting to God, being a part of a faith family provides encouragement, support through difficult circumstances, like-minded families for friendship (even though if you really want to live like Jesus he was friends with not like-minded people), and an opportunity to interact with people from other generations (something important for students since so many don’t live near extended family). I will not tell you what type of church to attend or how often, but if you happen to find yourself in a place and snakes come out, it might be time to try another church.

So go white water rafting, stay in a yurt, climb the Great Wall of China, or compete in an Iron Man (I just threw that in for all of the freaks of nature reading this), but don’t believe for a second that these things offer a full life. The key to a full life is in the living in the daily moments.

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