I do not, much to my husband’s recent chagrin, feel the need for large-screen plasma televisions. I don’t have diamond earrings in both princess- and round-cut. I don’t dress my children in designer clothing, or buy it for myself. My purse does not have a “C” or an “LV” or a little upside-down question mark on it. My favorite jeans are plain-old Levi’s. We lead a fairly simple life. We don’t indulge in much.


I’ve recently realized, however, that one of the things that is crucial and beyond valuable to me is life experience. I don’t want my children to learn just math and reading. I want them to know about different cultures and different religions. I want them to be comfortable talking with and hanging out with people who are much different than they are. I want to encourage them to explore the world, and the people in it. I want my children to live.


I know people who think it’s cruel that I take my kids to museums and try to teach them about the displays there. I know of others who think that I was crazy for taking my kids, when they were younger, to a nice restaurant for dinner. Why should they have to sit still like that? I paid good money to take my six-year-old to the theatre? Preposterous!! They used to express that to take my young children shopping all day with my sisters and mom and nieces was forcing them to endure something they shouldn’t have to endure.


And yet, my children learned so much from those experiences. They learned to be patient and how to be respectful and how to be polite. They learned to search out the things that they find interesting and to ask good questions about them. They order their own meals in restaurants, using please and thank you. They know that sometimes, life is not entirely about them, and that they should be kind when there’s something that I think is interesting, even if they don’t.


I am currently on an airplane after a week-long trip to Disney World in Orlando. My kids experienced airports and airplanes and shuttles from the airport to the hotel. We went to a luau and ate at an outrageously expensive dinosaur-themed restaurant. We went to a Japanese restaurant where the chefs cooked our food on a large grill at our table. They didn’t eat a whole lot, but they learned a little about Japanese culture, how to say a few words in Japanese, and they conversed with someone unlike any of the people we know at home. We rode on boats and monorails and buses and trams. We heard people speaking French and Mandarin and Spanish and German. We tried crepes and crème brulee and egg rolls and Japanese candy. They said “Merci” to the French guy at the Patisserie. They said “Hola” to the woman at the Mexican store. We talked about the shrine to Buddha that they saw and guessed at how many types of palm trees there are. Don’t get me wrong…we saw Mickey, too, and rode a bunch of rides and saw some cool shows, but more than anything, I treasure the life experience that my kids gained on this trip. They experienced life.


I’m not concerned with the brand of clothing my kids are wearing. I’m not going to spend my money on a purse with an “LV” on it. However, if I have the chance to take my children to Europe or the Caribbean or the Greek Isles, I will. If we can go see a volcano in Hawaii or a market in the Bahamas, I’m all over it. If we can see a castle in Germany or swim at the beach in the south of France, count me in. I’ll eat beans and rice for a few weeks if that’s what we need to do to afford it. My children, and I, will be so much richer for it.