Last month one of my teenage children asked if he could interview me for his Abnormal Psych class.  Normally I love it when one of my sweet cherubs wants to interact with me on a quality level such as this, however, after he fired off his first question "Do you think being the mother of 8 kids puts you at risk for having a personality disorder?" (are you kidding son, since I haven't lost my mind yet, it's just fine by me if my personality is the only thing that's out of order) I decided maybe I should've declined.

It's not that I'm not fascinated about the ins and outs of the human psyche, but I'm far more qualified to answer questions about how to toilet train a stubborn 3-year old than I am to quip about psychopathology and abnormal behavior.

Or am I?

Given the fact I've been hiding cartons of ice cream in old fish stick boxes for years now (hey, it works--we never run out of Ben and Jerry's thanks to this little trick!) or  used to move the kitchen clock ahead an hour many nights so my then younger kids would think it was actually time for bed, I'd have to say my tactics are more sneaky than abnormal.

In any case, I didn't want to let my son down so I pushed my doubts aside and let the interview continue, after all, it's my job as a parent to be supportive of my child's academic studies, and I was just a little bit curious to see if my human behaviors followed the normal curve.

Thankfully, the interview rolled along rather effortlessly and except for my answer to the question about constructive ways to stop feeling irritable (I see nothing wrong with getting dressed to the nines and heading out for a hot-fudge sundae to free one's self from misery) my son seem pleased with my replies.

Feeling satisfied that I was able to contribute to this homework assignment, unlike those killer math word problems my 6th grader comes home with (Brenna can buy bottles of water in packages of 6 for $13.50 or in packages of 4 for $9.36. How much money does she save by buying 48 bottles of water at the better price?) (and be sure and show your work--ugh!).  Even if these were bottles of Pinot Grigio in this example--I still cringe when someone has math work to do, but I started reflecting on the gift of learning and about how the opportunities to learn are endless no matter what our age as long as we're open to it.

Whether it's a subject in school, or a skill or hobby, or even a behavior, learning should be ongoing and something to look forward to.  As he packed his books away and got ready to leave for school he stopped and asked me just one more question-- "Mom, now that we're starting to head off to college, what are the most important lessons you hope we learned from you?"

Great question!  And after thinking about it for a few minutes, I rattled off my list of "Top 5" crucial life skills I hope my kids will leave home with:

#1.  Good Manners

Please and Thank You are definitely the magic words and a great beginning when it comes to teaching our kids manners.

#2.  Gratitude

Raising kids in this very materialistic world is not always easy, especially when they are constantly surrounded with hundreds of cool new items such as the latest electronics, brand name clothes, toys, and everything else in between.  Plant the seeds of gratitude when they are young so they can learn to appreciate the many gifts they have.

#3.  Honesty

Teaching the value of honesty to a child is one of the best gifts parents can give.  Kids are inundated with opportunities to be dishonest at school, at home, with their friends, and in dozens of other places that make up their daily lives and it's our job to teach them right from wrong and the consequences that come from lying.

#4.  Money Management

We spend tons of time teaching our kids to tie their shoes, to read, to ride a bike, to drive, but we don't often invest effort in teaching them how to manage their money. If your kids get a solid foundation about money management while they are young, they have a great chance of becoming fiscally responsible as adults.

#5. Happiness

As corny as it may sound, true happiness really is an inside job.  Our families, friends, careers, homes, cars, wardrobes, vacation destinations and anyone or anything else we interact with or have possession of cannot determine whether we are happy or miserable - that's all up to us.

With the "Abnormal Psych" lesson now under my belt along with my son's insightful closing question about the lessons I hope to impart before they leave the nest I feel completely re-energized and ready to learn something new today.  Maybe it will be how to knit or crochet, or how to make the perfect pie crust--maybe even to finally learn how to operate all the apps on my iPhone (nah, I'll leave that to my kids).  I'm not sure what it will be, but it really doesn't matter, because learning never goes out of style and that's a lesson I'm truly grateful for.

Copyright 2014, Cheryl Butler