Teach kids your family’s history
When my eldest son Taylor was just a little tyke, we were sitting around the table one evening eating a pizza from Pizza Hut. He picked a piece of sausage off the crust and asked what it was. I replied that it was Italian sausage and zap, my parenting brain popped into “family history lesson teachable moment.” “The word Italian means from the country of Italy,” I continued. “Taylor, your great-grandfather came to this country from Italy to work … ” and before I could finish, Taylor’s face lit up and he excitedly finished my sentence with “to work at Pizza Hut?”There have been few times in my life when I was left speechless. I distinctly remember this being one of those times. I had a vision of my grandfather getting off the ship in 1913 and how very far a fast-food franchise was from his experience of the world – let alone his aspirations for coming to America. This was going to take much more than a simple answer, so for the time being I just replied, “No, not at Pizza Hut.” I made sure that in following years our family took part in the tours that were offered at the Yule Marble Quarry in Marble. This was actually where my grandfather came to work those many years ago. Exploring the quarry and remnants of the mill created a more tangible picture for the kids. We marveled at what the working conditions must have been like, and how astonishing it seemed that such work could be done without the modern tools we have today. These were teachable moments about appreciating our family. Too often in today’s fast-paced world, we parents can easily overlook connecting our children with their family history. Exploring not only our family, but the cultural background of our relatives, creates more openness in our children to appreciate other people and other cultures. There is something in us that drives us to learn about “our roots.” If your ancestors immigrated to America through Ellis Island, you can view the ship’s log from their passage at http://www.ellisisland.org. My Heritage Family Tree Builder is a free Internet download that helps you organize your own family tree. A connection to our family heritage seems to give us a foundation.Through their childhoods, some connection was apparently being made for my kids. They were still quite small when, one day as I was driving them to school, my younger son piped up from the backseat. “Hey Mom, did you know that the Italian soccer team won their game yesterday?” His older brother rolled his eyes and said, “Carson, what does she care about that?” To which Carson returned, “Taylor, those are her people.” Let me end on a clarifying note so when my mother reads this, I won’t get taken to task. Only my father’s side of the family was from Italy. I have stories to tell from my mother’s family as well – but more on that family history at a different time.Debbie Wilde is YouthZone executive director.
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