Teach That Old Dog…Go Ahead


Teach That Old Dog...Go AheadI went to the beach this week. It was glorious and I’m fearlessly claiming “Vitamin Sea Therapy” against any Covid-19 naysayers out there. But while I sat there with growing kids (read: less responsibility), I confess I found myself just a little, smidgy, teensy bit…


Not because I don’t love the beach and I didn’t bring three books to read or didn’t have fifteen conversations to engage in, but because looking out at that ocean felt just a tiny bit familiar. We try to go every other year or so, which means the newness and excitement has worn off a bit. My brain remembers the sand beneath my toes and the roar of the surf and the sting of the sunburn. The beach is nothing new.

So I pulled out the book I was reading and stumbled upon a chapter about that very thing…the stagnation that comes from doing the same thing over and over and over. As moms we can all relate. Sometimes it feels like we repeat everything. The same TV shows, the same movies, the same meals. We finish the same weekly tasks, answer the same childlike questions, wipe the same bottoms, deal with the same issues. Over and over these waves roll until our minds feel like Jell-O.

Sometimes I’m just desperate for something NEW!

Which is why this chapter struck a chord. After all, our brains are designed to grow and change and stretch for our entire lifetime. We are made to learn new things and take new risks and learn new skills. Not only does it keep life interesting, it keeps us from getting stagnant or complacent (or bored).

But as a busy, part-time working mom, I find traditional methods of ‘learning’ not exactly feasible. I’m probably not signing up for night classes. I doubt joining a co-ed adult lacrosse league is my ball of wax. I can’t afford most craft workshops (plus, Pinterest has everything I need at the tip of my finger…if I ever get around to it). So I began to ponder…

What do I do regularly that I can sprinkle “newness” into without making a huge commitment of time, energy, or money? Here are a few I came up with, and I’ll bet you can think of dozens more!


I am almost always cooking something new. It is one of my favorite ways to learn! My kids’ meals are boring, but for my husband and myself I love cruising the internet to find a tantalizing new dish to try. Whether it’s a new flavor, a new ingredient, or a new cooking style, my brain cells are getting flexed and fed at the same time. Even if you don’t love cooking, trying new recipes or flavors or simply ordering new dishes at your favorite restaurant can grow those brains a bit!


Got kids? You’ve got a built-in “Life 101” class right in your living room. My kids LOVE to learn new games. Whether it’s Mario on the old school Nintendo or the latest, coolest board game, I’m always shocked to see what they are capable of when we are learning with them. We recently bought my daughter the game “Exploding Kittens.” None of us had ever played it, so we all learned together! We also love the newest versions of UNO. (Dos, Uno Flip, Uno-corns…etc.) At the beach we taught our whole family a new game using a simple deck of cards. There are tons of great games out there, easy for kids, challenging for adults, and perfect for stretching those old brains while enjoying some friendly family competition.


I have a bucket list of things I want to do with my kids every summer. Some of the items on the list are good, old-fashioned fun like camping, fishing, and swimming, while others are activities that I’ve never attempted but should! Now that my kiddos are getting older, it’s the perfect time to pull out that list and start marking boxes of NEW activities to try. You can, too: Not a hiking person? Go explore the Smokies! Haven’t experienced the thrill of heights lately? Challenge your elementary kid in a ropes course or a zipline adventure! It’s summer…go tubing, see the Elkmont Fireflies, build a porch swing, plant a flower garden. Challenge your family to something new every week and see if your brains don’t just bust out of your heads!


All I have to do is watch the news to know that there is always ALWAYS room for new growth in my brain. I can always learn about one more culture. I can always listen to one more perspective. I can always discuss one more hard topic. And this doesn’t involve rocket science, it doesn’t take hours, and it doesn’t require any special materials that we don’t already have: a kind heart, a listening ear, and an open mind.

Want to learn something new? Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Sit next to a stranger at the park. Take your family to serve at a local food bank. Join the daytime, peaceful protests in your city and strike up a conversation with the people around you. Visit a church, a mosque, or a temple. Eat at an ethnic restaurant and get to know the manager. Each person you meet is an invitation to learn something new about your community and about yourself. Don’t miss these life-changing lessons!

Mom, there has never been a more perfect time to get out there, stretch our brain cells, and show our families that no matter how old we get, we must keep growing — as parents, as people, and as humans.


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