How does the “glow of satisfaction” feel to you? What does it look like? Can you imagine it on the face of your child? That face is one of my favorites. It says, “I can’t believe I just did that all by myself!” That was how I felt when I learned how to create a blog, and I have enjoyed watching as my children have had experiences that made them feel the same way.
A few months ago, one week after school let out for the summer, my children adopted a paper route. My 10 and 8-year-old sons both relished the idea of having a job. They felt big. Together they deliver 300 small community newspapers twice a month. Three hundred! The first week folding and delivering were family affairs. Everyone was anxious to participate in this new venture. I was excited to see how my children would tackle this new challenge.
First, we folded the papers in the company of a timer, so that we could try to improve our time each week. Next we loaded five bikes and a wagon into the back of our van (sans the seats, of course) and drove over to our assigned route. I took our six-year old daughter and four-year old son along with their bikes, the wagon, and a big box of newspapers and went one direction. My husband took our baby and the two oldest boys in the van and went the other direction. It was hot, but it could have been hotter (as we learned a few short weeks later).
I pulled the wagon up each street while my four-year old and six-year old rode their bikes up each side of the street delivering newspapers to doorsteps. We were having fun… for a while. Then they started to get tired and thirsty. I planned to bring water… but forgot. Fetching water from someone we knew in the neighborhood required backtracking a couple of blocks which was hard for my task-oriented heart, but thankfully wisdom prevailed. After satiating their thirst, we continued on our way.
Finally, we met up with my husband and my other two thirsty sons and we all finished the last little bit together. Then we headed home. As we neared the end of our experience, I was certain this would be our first and last time to deliver newspapers as a family. I really expected to hear exclamations regarding the difficulty of the task. In this, I was happily disappointed.
The “glow of satisfaction” in our home that night could have lit up the sky. All of the children were so proud of their accomplishment. Sure it was long and tiring and hard, but they did it! They stuck it out and they were proud of themselves. I was proud of them, too. My heart nearly burst.
Children should be allowed to do hard things. If you believe they can do them, then they will too! And you will both be amazed in the process.
The other night I was making one of our standby dinners—pancakes. As I stood at the stove flipping them, my eight-year old (the week’s designated dinner deputy) came to my side. “Can I help?” he asked. My first instinct was to redirect him. The pan was high, the pancakes were close together, and I didn’t want him to burn himself or mess up the pancakes. (Can you really mess up a pancake?!) Then, once again, wisdom prevailed and I relinquished the spatula.
My son took over the task with zeal and was actually enjoying himself–much more than I had been enjoying myself, I might add. He cooked several pancakes before his 10-year old brother took an interest in what he was doing and asked for a turn. Then I watched as my eight-year old coached my 10-year old through Pancake Flipping 101. Truly priceless!
The value of such moments is just that: priceless. Children build character and confidence with every challenge conquered and skill learned. Often that requires loosening the apron strings on our part. The pay off is that our children know we trust them, we have confidence in them, and we love them.
All of my son’s pancakes weren’t perfect, but then, neither were mine! In spite of that, every last one was eaten. Now that’s success.
QUESTION: Tell us about a time that you delegated a task to your children. Were you surprised at the result? What tasks have you found them capable of?
CHALLENGE: What household tasks could you delegate to your children? Do you have the tendency to hover when disaster (i.e. spilled milk) might be imminent? Try to recognize opportunities to let go and show confidence in your children’s abilities. While success may not be the first result, keep in mind that falling is part of learning how to fly.