It’s funny how a simple, unexpected phrase from your child can be so delightful.
We had just arrived at Nonna and Papa’s house (my parents), and I was turning ground turkey into turkey burgers. That was going to be my part in pitching in. My Mom was preparing a salad. Suddenly, my girl chimed in…
Her – “Is there anything I can do to help?”
My Mom answered before I could.
Nonna – “You can help set the table. Oh, wait, it looks like Papa already took care of it.”
Her – “Oh. Is there anything else I can help with?”
There really wasn’t, but I was delighted that she had asked, unprompted.
Me – “I’m really proud of you for asking and for thinking of helping out. Little efforts go a long way. That means a lot to people.”
For the last couple years, I have been steadily bringing her more into the fold of making family life work. One way I’ve done that is asking her to not expect everything to be done by others when it comes to preparing for dinner or cleaning up after dinner.
If I had a dime for every time I’ve reminded her or lectured her about taking her own plate to the kitchen and, when she did that, not leaving it by the sink for others to tend to, I would be challenging Bill Gates. But I’ve kept at it, steadily.
A typical comment when I’m patient-
Me – “Hmmm… anything else you might want to do before you head off?”
A typical comment when I’m frustrated from repeating myself about it-
Me – “Excuse me! Where are you going? Who are you expecting to clean up your plate? This is a family, not a hotel. We all work together to make it work. You’re not asked to do a whole lot. You can certainly take care of your own plate, and I expect you to look for ways to help out. Come on. Get a few things from the table.”
Back to this evening…
For a moment, I did wonder if she had ulterior motives.
Me – “You’re not trying to sell me on something you want to get like watching TV by helping out, are you?”
Her – “No, Daddy. I’m not trying to sell you. Is there anything I can help with?”
Me – “Well, I really appreciate that you asked and thought about how you could help like everyone else is doing. I’m proud of you.”
Nonna did find a couple small things that she could do like take mayo and ketchup to the table. Then, she and I played hide-and-seek until dinner.
Sort of ironic, I guess. She showed signs of increased maturity, and then I prompted her to play hide-and-seek. But that seems like a good formula for a quality life.
Tend to tasks that help yourself and those around you.
Rinse and repeat.
Anyway, it takes a whole lot of modeling and repeating, but it’s always encouraging when you see values taking hold that will serve her well in life.