June 13, 2018
Tomorrow, our third child will have her 20th birthday.
We will be down to 1 teenager. Do not get me wrong, there is some relief in this fact.
But it also brings some reflection. In particular, I remember roughly 16 years ago when our quartet of kiddos were 5, 5, 4 and 1. We felt over-matched. We were already overwhelmed with 3 (we could no longer run a man-to-man defense and had to resort to a “zone” to keep chaos at bay), but the fourth really stretched us.
While I might not be wise, I know people who are wise. My mother is one of those. We called her with a simple word, “Help.” OK, we then added a follow-up question, “If you could give us one piece of advice, what would it be?”
“Assume they are more capable than you think.”
We asked her what she meant.
“If you know a child can do something, let them do it. If you think a child can do something, let them try. If you are not sure, take a chance – they might surprise you.”
“But they are so SLOW”, we protested.
“Of course”, she replied, “But you want two things. First, you want them to become capable and that only happens if you let them do things on their own. Second, you will wear yourself out trying to do everything for 4 children.”
She then added a few thoughts. “Be careful with the word ‘we’. For example, never say ‘we have soccer practice’ or ‘we have a science fair project’. Your child has those things and it is their experience. Also, children will often surprise you and rise to the level of your expectations. If you expect them to advocate for themselves or to do their own homework, they will generally surprise you.”
While we received many great pieces of advice from many people, this one tidbit has done the most to make our children capable and help keep us sane.