“I do it!”
We get so excited to hear our little ones utter their first words. They get so excited about the independence it brings.
The struggle for self-reliance begins. Throw the stopwatch out the window. A toddler has no concept of time.
It might take fifteen minutes for them to put on their own boots. Which don’t match. And are on the wrong foot. But success! They did it themselves.
Oh, the fun to be had in the kitchen! In Bible study once, we discussed little hands helping in the kitchen. A friend of mine smiled so big as she remembered her mom always letting her help in the kitchen. (Side note, today this woman is hands down the best home cook I know) Her mother would always tell her,
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re with me in the kitchen today! Think of how much faster I can get things done because I have extra hands to help me. You do such a good job!”
My first response was to call this mama’s bluff from all those years ago. Because there is no way that child’s “help” was “helpful.” (Fortunately, I didn’t say anything out loud.)
The first few times my daughter helped in the kitchen, we had flour on the floor, down the cracks of the cabinets, on the dogs, on our clothes, in our ears. Egg shell in the batter. Melted butter on the mixer. Little germ-infested hands eating cookie dough out of the bowl. And that’s when it went well.
We’ve improved somewhat. She can microwave her own little container of Macaroni & Cheese. She shows increasing skill in her ability to spread butter or peanut butter or jelly on a slice of bread. Cracking an egg remains iffy.
But here’s what I’ve learned. Our little ones need to do things on their own. They need to help you. It sounds simple but observe your home routine carefully. How many times do we just do the work ourselves because it’s faster, easier and just plain gets done right?
Our little girl is learning to read! She’s made a great deal of progress this school year. I’m so proud of those moments when we’re out running errands and she says something out loud because she’s read it.
“Mom, you know Meijer doesn’t sound anything like it looks. It should be... [insert phonetic attempts at spelling here].”
Her teacher encouraged us to let the students write out their own Valentine Cards this year. I didn’t even sit with her while she did it. It only took two hours give or take.
Every age brings its own level of independence. If we’ll let it.
I observed a little boy at church Sunday. He’s two. His brother’s four. They are both deacons-in-the-making. Already, they love their church and they want to help.
Photo Credit: North Point Church
Our church meets in a middle school. So, every Sunday we set it up and tear it down. In my Bible reading this week, I just finished up Exodus. I was reminded that the Levites set up and tore down the Tabernacle every time the Israelites wandered somewhere else in the desert. God’s people have been worshiping in mobile sanctuaries for a long time.
Anyway, this little guy at church. The two-year old. He saw an adult tearing down our welcome display, which consists of three wooden doors that come unlatched and are hauled out to a trailer one by one. He went over to lift one of the decorative doors and carry it outside. The actual worker had to move all around the door to find a safe place for the toddler to hold onto the door and walk without falling.
They did it. Together. Sort of. And that day, and may it be so every Sunday, the little boy learned it takes all of us to make church happen.
Just a reminder as we go throughout our day. If you have a toddler at home, let him help. If you’re doing laundry, socks are a good thing for them to fold. Or wash cloths. If you have plans to go somewhere, start getting your little girl ready about an hour before. Give her a countdown. Outfit choices are an excellent idea. Don’t worry if it matches perfectly.
It’s not about being perfect. It’s about growing up.