Written for Chicago Parent magazine- January 2015
It’s a new year. A fresh opportunity to be more open and optimistic. In a time when experts are challenging parents to say no more often to overcommitment, why not try something new or finally say yes to an activity that’s been calling you or your kids?
These four Chicago families did and it helped them see the world in a whole new way.
Yes to: renovating a playground
Why did you say yes to leading a playground renovation?
I was working full-time when I felt a calling to stay home with the kids. Four days after my “retirement,” I got an email from the Chicago Park District saying Chicago Plays! applications for park improvements were due in 14 days. It was serendipity.
We live across the street from the park, in the house my husband grew up in. We knew it needed updates and my passion and interests are in community improvement.
How did it impact your family and the community?
My husband and I both had to say yes to the sacrifice. It was a busy few months of grant writing, gathering signatures and aligning key stakeholders. Our 11-year-old son helped with documentation. He video-recorded problem areas at the park and brainstormed new equipment with friends. He felt empowered and good about what we were doing.
Our daughter was the first one down the new slide. It was satisfying to see parents encounter the renovated park for the first time.
Now that we have the ball rolling with an organized committee, I’d like to broaden our impact and introduce more programs. Everybody benefits when we work together.
Yes to: Flying
Lara Krupicka and daughter Katherine, 13
Why did you say yes to flying?
Friends talked about the EEA Young Eagles Program, which offers free flights in small planes for kids 8-17. Years ago I worked for a man who owned a Cessna Skyhawk. If it was a nice day, we would take off early and fly. I told my three girls it was really cool and that they should try it. Being the author of Family Bucket Lists, I try to live a bucket list life. Our daughters are learning the idea of being adventurous. They perked up when friends mentioned flying so I knew we needed to make it a goal.
How has flying impacted Katherine?
She used to be a very cautious child. It’s such a big world. I told her she needed to break out. To get on a plane with no shelter, that’s adventure. She loves it so much, she makes sure we go each month. She’s researched aviation and done online training. She wants to get her pilot’s license and deliver missionary supplies to remote areas.
What advice do you have for families seeking new experiences?
Prioritize the things that bring you together versus pull you apart.
Moms also need not forget about themselves.
Say yes to a dream and model it for your kids. You can tell children to embrace opportunities, but when they see you doing it, that’s when it sticks. Maybe try a parent-child adventure.
Yes to: Hosting a Chinese exchange student
Mary Beth Szorc and exchange student Zach, 18
Why did you say yes to hosting an exchange student?
I wanted to grow the family but medically could not carry another child. I give manicures to the woman in charge of hand-selecting Chinese exchange students for DePaul College Prep. She mentioned they have a hard time finding host families. I said I would be interested. That was August 2013. We never said another word about it. On January 5, 2014, I got an email saying there were six students coming, would it be OK if we took a boy named Zach? He was here three days later. My heart just melted as soon as he walked in, his smile is so contagious.
What have you learned from this experience?
We’ve learned how completely different the Chinese culture is from ours. They don’t express emotion as much. I want Zach to know that here we laugh, cry and hug. It teaches my kids that it’s not just us. There’s more to do, more to give.
Yes to: Modeling and acting
Amy Williams* and son Aidan, 6 (*mom requested last name changed)
Why did you say yes to Aidan modeling and acting?
My friend, who used to be in the industry, asked if we’d ever considered it. When Aidan was 4, they needed kids his age for a commercial shoot. He got an audition. He didn’t get the part, which wasn’t surprising, but the producer said he did great. It really sparked his interest. He kept bugging me, “When do I get to do another audition?” I figured why not? In the past six months, Aidan has modeled for clothing and education companies, acted in a theater production and filmed two commercials. It’s playing pretend and he loves it.
How has it affected Aidan?
He’s always been a shy and reserved kid, so I didn’t ever think he would thrive in this business. But his confidence has really gone up. That’s been fun to watch. At school he’s more apt to communicate with teachers, where before he would keep his struggles inside, get frustrated or break down. He’s finding himself.