This morning my youngest daughter was getting herself dressed. She was having a little trouble with one of her sleeves. Like many parents, my wife said, “Come here, I’ll help.”
Our daughter look at her said, “I do it.”
She continued to struggle to get the sleeve untangled and her hand through the sleeve. She turned a couple of times like a dog chasing its tail. After a minute she stopped and said, “Need help.”
My wife then helped her get her arm through the sleeve and we continued with our morning routine. The time in between “I do it” and “Need help” was probably at the most a minute. But in parental time it felt like an hour, especially since we were in the middle of our morning routine.
My youngest girl is a classic strong-willed child. She will tackle any thing she feels like. If this was any of my other four children at this age they would have let us help them get their arm through the shirt right away. We would have justified helping them for the sake of our routine.
It is easy to do things for our kids. Whether they are our own kids or our students. My oldest son is now 12 years old and we are asking him to take on more responsibility. But I wonder if I have simply taught him that dad will do it. For example, for years I have cleaned the dishes from the table after dinner. It is easier for me to handle the mess than have a child carry a plate with some uneaten macaroni and cheese on it and have the possibility that the child dumps the food on the floor. Or take their glass, with just a little bit of milk at the bottom, to the counter. But now that I want my son to do more, there are moments of frustration because he forgets to put his plate in the dishwasher. But I have done it for him for twelve years.
This morning my three-year-old daughter reminded me that building any foundation takes a lot of time and energy. It might be easy to do things for our kids for the sake of time or ease. But the foundation will not be there when it is needed most in life. When we are not there.