Creating opportunities outside of school

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By Reginald Barbour

Creating opportunities for our children outside of school is something my friends and I talk about…a lot. As fathers, we often reminisce about growing up without the conveniences that our children have today. While we had Atari and somewhat of a desktop computer or word processor, they do not compare to the electronics our children have in 2017. And our “things” did not stop us from going outside to play sometimes with nothing at all other than a bike and our imagination.

I’m not going to say that my children are couch potatoes because they aren’t – far from it actually. Both of my sons are heavily involved in various types of sports. They both show up ready to play at every game. Giving it their all, hoping to score, focused on mastering their tasks at the moment. Understanding that these are opportunities that they are thankful for.

But what happens when you run out of opportunities for organized sports games? When you are in-between seasons and there seems like there’s absolutely nothing to do, how do you fill the time? This is where my best friends and I come together and intentionally exchange ideas on different activities. We recognize the importance of ensuring our children have access and exposure to various experiences that aren’t always tied to your typical youth sports. For example, I never went skiing when I was a kid and neither did most of my friends. It was almost like its something that Black families just didn’t do.

It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that Black people did, in fact, ski. And swim. And hike. Knowing that, is what drives our planning and information sharing – making sure our children are doing the things that we did not do. The boys are home for 17 days this holiday break. We’re going skiing. We’re going to take the train to New York and ice skate at Rockefeller Center (again). We’re going to use this time off to explore our city, visit museums, learn new things, create new memories. We’re going to talk about the importance of knowing more today than you did yesterday. We’re going to spend quality time with other family members. I believe it’s the opportunities that we create in addition to those they receive in school, that help our children become the well-rounded citizens that we want them to be.

But what happens to those who aren’t able to take time off from work to ensure their children have options? Who helps them? My wife used to work for the Boys & Girls Clubs and I remember when she would come home and say these are the best programs in town. Not only are children admitted on a sliding pay scale but they are given so many opportunities to be involved in so many different things from STEM to cooking class to learning to sew to book clubs. It was a buffet of options. This isn’t an endorsement of Boys & Girls Clubs as much as it is a head nod to afterschool programs that are available for all children, especially those who need them most.

If you’ve been reading my blogs then by now you know that I am a huge proponent of choice and truth. Understanding is one thing but doing is what actually matters. If you have the time, create some opportunities for your children and others in your community or family. Believe me when I tell you it will benefit you just as much as it benefits them.