My kids go to this awesome soccer class. I hold no hopes that they will one day be star footy players signed by big clubs, they are 2 and 4. It’s just really fun. I think the coaches make it. They are goofy and silly and in touch with what the kids are all about. My sons love it.
One day at soccer the coach had tossed out a pile of cones for a game and afterwards asked the kids to pack them up, stacking them in their matching colours. One of the new mums who was helping her little one with the games started collecting and packing up some cones herself. “You don’t need to do that” coach said, “we are not based on efficiency here”
I smiled but really I wanted to give that guy a round of applause. Because this has become my sort-of parenting motto, but it has taken me so long to learn. As a parent I used to be helpful, too helpful. If I could see my kid was struggling with something I would swoop in to help (more like to do it for them). As a parent, when the majority of our job is to do things for them that they can’t do, it’s all too easy to miss the possibility that they can. And even if they can’t the learning is in the struggle. It’s hard to step back and watch them strain to pull themselves up, to get frustrated, to clumsily fumble, to spill, or as they get older to hold back from nudging them in the direction of a correct answer. Often I have to ask helpful strangers to ‘please give them a chance to try themselves’ as they look confusedly at this lazy mother. Once I even had to talk two well meaning grannies out of carting-off my youngest because he was ‘crying and looking lost’ when actually I was standing a few steps away watching him attempt to change the spade he had chosen from a hanging display. The crying was because the one he had’s tag was torn. “Me no like it”, that kid likes perfection.
But what I’m learning is the more I give them the chance to try, the more capable they become. And the more insistent they become. I hear “I can do it”/”me do it” a lot these days, and they can. Yes it’s hell of a messy. Yes it takes a lot longer. Yes it probably doesn’t get done to my standards. But you know what? “We aren’t based on efficiency here” and I like that.