Tips on How to Help Your Kids Be “Weird” in Austin
Austin, Texas, is the home of keeping it weird. We celebrate our uniqueness and acceptance of others and enjoy diversity. Just because this is the mantra of the city doesn’t mean that it automatically spreads to our children. In Austin, “weird” is cool. I suppose to decide what it is to be “weird” would mean that we have to decide what it means to be “normal.” (That is another debate all together.) As parents, “weird” means teaching our kids to accept others and to be open-minded and tolerant.
As kids grow, they are learning from everyone around them, but mostly from their parents. They are learning what they live. They don’t have to be hipsters or hippies to be a cool kind of weird. We just want our kids to be happy and to be themselves. We want other people and kids to feel like they can be themselves around us and our kids, too.
Continue reading for some Austin-style “weird” parenting tips for local moms, dads and anyone else who takes care of children.
Experience the Weird
Your kids don’t have to just do what their gender might dictate. All of these things help their creativity muscles grow and that is the goal!”
A child’s experiences can help them develop their own views and thoughts, and Austin is chock-full of things for kids to experience. A simple Google search brings up tons of activities. What to choose? Choose anything that might get your kids out of their comfort zone, but would be fun!
Don’t push beyond their limits, just little nudges here and there. Mix in things they like to do with things you like to do and things that neither of you are sure about. And, most of all, let them make the decision sometimes!
As they get older you can even ask them to plan the event (after they’ve seen you do it a few times, of course). There are plenty of free museum days along with other free activities, festivals and fun events. If you have a positive attitude and are excited, it is usually contagious.
To try new things, one place to go might be The Thinkery, which is the new and improved version of the Austin Children’s Museum. Kids are encouraged to try out different activities and are encouraged to enjoy whatever it is that they like instead of being put into a stereo-typed role.
Another suggestion is the Austin Nature and Science Center. This place has a dino-dig pit, wildlife exhibits and a nature trail. In an age of technology and video games, it is nice to get our kids outside and into exploration mode! There are kids cooking classes available around town. Home Depot and Michaels have kids building and crafts days.
Your kids don’t have to just do what their gender might dictate. All of these things help their creativity muscles grow and that is the goal!
Commune with the Weird
Another thing that seems very Austiny is the sense of community – like we are all in it together to make this a better place.
It’s an idea, and I’m not saying everyone abides by it, but if you could teach it to your kids, wouldn’t that be nice? So where to go to promote that? There are numerous parks with free splash pads around town for those hot summer months where kids can go and be kids and join in play with others. You can take your kids to Barton Springs, for a small fee, as there are always a variety of people patronizing its grassy shores.
Blues on the Green in Zilker Park is another place to go with a blanket and a picnic to sit out and enjoy the day. You will see an array of people from families to college kids to hippies. Not that those categories are exclusive of each other, which is part of what we want to teach the kiddos! There is a Play for All Abilities Park in Round Rock that has 51,000 square feet of equipment that any kid can have fun with. Kids with differences rule the roost at this park, and it is all about accepting everyone.
We can’t forget culture. Besides Austin being its own culture, there is the culture of learning about the outside world and many types of people that live in our city. Austin has a plethora of local shops and restaurants to try out. Trailer eateries are popping up all over town, and are a fun way to get good food and eat picnic-style.
Have your kids try various types of food – we all love TexMex, but what about Indian or Ethiopian? Having your kids dress up and going to a nice restaurant once in a while might be a good learning experience as well.
There are a variety of cultural centers around Austin such as the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, The George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center and The Asian American Resource Center. There’s the Mexic-Arte Museum, The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin Museum of Art, sculpture gardens, botanical gardens and on and on.
Festivals include The American Indian Heritage Festival and Annual Powwow, Diwali Festival of Lights, Day of the Dead Festival and Parade, Wurstfest, Oktoberfest and more. There are also the endless arrays of music festivals. The possibilities are limitless.
Helping is Weird
An important part of any community is helping others. If you feel like your kids just don’t understand a certain aspect of life that you want them to know – see what you can find as far as volunteer opportunities go. Be prepared to put in some time yourself as well so that your kids know it is really important to you.
Taking care of your community is another aspect that might be shown by helping sort items at the recycle center or participating in a park clean-up. The Cathedral of Junk or related art exhibits may also show ways people have used old things to make something new and beautiful.
And lastly, Austin is known for being active. Even if your child isn’t a star athlete you can take them out hiking and exploring. You can rent kayaks or canoes and paddle around Lady Bird Lake. Take your dogs for a walk on any of the greenbelt or nature trails around town. If your kids are more experienced athletes they may like to mountain bike or paddle board. The BMX and skate parks around town might be a place to join in or to watch those with more experience.
There are all kinds of sports camps available during school breaks, and lessons all throughout the year. Kids are usually welcome at many of the races held around town too. Look at what is available that would be fun or for a good cause and do it with them!
Support their Weirdness
We are the ones that teach our kids how to value others and we have to show them that in order for them to learn it.”
What we provide for our children experiences is an amazing eye opener, but it doesn’t compare to our support as parents. Spend time with your kids and remind them that there are many ways to do things and many different ways to be skilled. We don’t want to value our kids for just one thing – being attractive, being a good athlete, being smart and the other typical indicators of achievement.
We want to also point out that our kids are kind, funny, share well, have good hearts, and are creative, brave and all of the other things we admire and love about them. We are the ones that teach our kids how to value others and we have to show them that in order for them to learn it.