On one Fun Friday a few weeks back, Mike and I visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. We learned that the people native to New Mexico make up 19 distinct Pueblos who all share ownership of the museum.
From that visit, we then wanted to take the boys to the Acoma Pueblo also known as Sky City because it stands on top of a mesa. The Acoma people have been around for centuries and have lived in the same area for about a thousand years. This mission church was built almost 400 years ago when Spanish Catholics came into their land.
There were times the boys were more interested in drawing in the dirt than listening to our informative tour guide. When I interrupted their dirt art to tell them the importance of learning and respecting our hosts, Ethan insisted that he was listening. Connor, on the other hand, who knows? They did enjoy looking at the bread oven.
It’s impressive that the Acoma people have maintained their culture over centuries especially after times of oppression. It makes me more than cringe when that cruel oppression has been done in the name of God. People have totally messed up. Yet in spite of it all, the Acoma people still have these holy buildings, or kivas, in place as well as their language and many traditions that amazingly withstood attempts to be erased. I hope my boys can cherish their culture in the same way and not take it for granted.
We learned a lot and appreciated what we heard. Even if Ethan did not really listen and learn as much as I would have liked, he did learn (courtesy of yet another mom lecture) that the history we hear and read often depends upon who is telling it. What he may read in an old textbook could just be a fraction of the story. The more sources he gets from different sides the more accurate of a picture he will be able to gain.
The little life lessons of the day went from history to economy for my precious 1st grader. Ethan came to the Pueblo armed with his wallet. He had brought about $14 which is about $10 less than his whole life savings at this point. (He has a cheap tooth fairy, remember? And he is unemployed.) He was so excited to peruse the gift shop and artisan tables. “Excited” might be the biggest understatement of the year. He held his bright orange wallet the entire day while dreaming of the bounty it would allow him to acquire.
After the tour, we lingered in the gift shop. Maybe “lingered” is now the biggest understatement of the year. He examined every postcard and bookmark on this one turn stile to the point of agony. Then he and I ventured BACK outside to the artisan tables. We stood in front of one particular table until the sun sizzled our necks. This is a picture of the boys and I before the tour where the tables were. When we returned, Ethan chose to stand on the opposite side of the courtyard to look at a table situated in the neck-sizzling sunshine. (In the distance you can see Sky City on top of the mesa.)
While Ethan considered and touched every single piece of pottery and every carefully chiseled arrowhead, I talked with the woman and man who had crafted them. While Ethan contemplated what to buy, I learned how she made the intricate pottery designs. I saw how he had to hit the stone hard enough to break it yet soft enough to maintain its shape. I learned where they got the dye and the stone. Then it got to the point that I saw pictures of her grandchildren. After all that time, Ethan walks away. WHAT?! I rush over to him and whisper out of earshot what was he thinking and if there was anything he wanted. He said that it was all too expensive. He could have gotten a teeny tiny bird-shaped piece for $5, but I’m not sure he caught her say that one’s price. In the end, despite all previous excitement and the huge investment of time shopping, he left empty-handed.
I thought maybe I should have supplemented a purchase for him. The eagle-shaped arrowhead he liked was very cool, but $6 more than he had. I felt badly for him. At the same time, I also think it was good for him to learn the value of money. Things are expensive. And when they are and you have limited means, you are less likely to want to buy everything flippantly. You have to really want it, and its purchase has to have some wisdom behind it. In that sense, I’m glad he chose not to buy even something he could afford just for the sake of consumption.
Instead I decided to officially grant him an allowance for the responsibilities he had already been doing fairly regularly, like making his bed every morning. If he does all his chores, he gets paid. This past Sunday was his first payday. We had agreed upon $1 for one week of work. (It should not surprise you that his Tooth Fairy is the same stingy person in charge of his allowance.) Why not add another life lesson? On payday, I gave him $2, but instructed him that the other $1 was to be donated to church. We say thank you to God for giving us what we have. We honor Him with giving some of it back to do good in the world around us. I want him to learn not just the value of money, but the joy of giving it away.
Learning a people’s history can be hard to hear. Learning little life lessons can be just as hard. However the value of each is well worth the costs involved. Learning is priceless, and that is another life lesson I would like the boys to know.