Yes, we live in a modern age full of smartphones and YouTube tutorials, but there still is no substitute for hands-on learning through participation and repetition. After all, father-son bonding through oral traditions goes back to the dawn of time. My boys love to hear about how I spent my time as a kid in a pre-cable, pre-internet, pre-gaming world. And they love even more hearing about the skills I learned in my youth.
1. How to Skip a Stone: There are two key elements to successful stone skipping: the rock and the throw. Ideally, the rock should be flat and smooth on both sides. I personally favor a rock that looks like a paper football (triangular). Once you’ve found your rock, you’ll need to master the throw. Grip the rock between your forefinger and thumb. Aim to throw the rock straight, facing out from your palm, so its flight is perpendicular to the water’s surface. Flick your wrist on release (like you would a baseball), and watch your rock skip! Ten skips is impressive; anything over 20 is exceptional.
2. How to Climb a Tree: Much like skipping stones, how you choose your tree is crucial. Novices should select a tree in which they can reach up and grasp a branch while still standing on the ground. They will also want to make sure branches are within arm’s reach once they’re off the ground. An expert tree-climber will take the Tarzan approach and hug the tree’s trunk tightly while placing his feet heel-to-toe until he has reached his first branch. Most important: Make sure any and every branch will be able to support your weight. A good tip: If the branch is the size of your arm, stick as close as possible to the tree’s center where the branch and tree connect. A branch the size of your thigh or bigger should be able to hold you sufficiently farther away from the tree’s core.
3. How to Do Laundry: Teaching your son to wash his own clothes will go a long way. Different clothes can require different handling. These days, most washing machines are as complicated as your DVR remote, but there are two basic rules of thumb: 1) Wash whites in hot water; and 2) Wash colors in cold water.
4. How to Scale a Fence: You never know when you’ll need this skill—it might even be in a dream!—so it’s a good one to have. Fences come in different shapes and sizes. Wooden split-rail fences are best conquered by grasping the top rail with both hands and then stepping on the bottom rail with your lead foot. Lean back with your body weight and then explode up off your foot. Shift your shoulders and hips—in parallel formation—over the top rail. Your momentum will get you over. As you cross the top rail, let go with your hands, and bring your feet together as you land. As with trees, the best techniques for other types of fences will depend on what you can reach and how much weight it can support. Always make sure there’s a place for at least one hand and one foot on the fence at all times for optimal support of your body.
5. How to Cook a Meal: Like laundry, cooking doesn’t have to be as intimidating or confusing as some people make it seem. If you can read, you can cook. Seriously. All you have to do is follow the recipe. Two important things to remember: 1) Salt and pepper are your best friends (they will bring out the flavor of almost any food); and 2) Cook to taste (too often people don’t eat something because they don’t like the way it tastes). So if you can make a grilled cheese, then you can make a quesadilla. Try adding some of your favorite meats or veggies to a quesadilla to spice it up. And if you can boil water, you can make pasta.
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