I hate every activity I have to do pre-coffee. I’m admittedly a bit of a grump before I’ve had my morning caffeine bump, so when an egg flew through the air and smashed on the kitchen floor on a recent morning, I wasn’t amused.
My 21-month-old daughter — my beloved Sasha — had hurled the egg from her perch atop the kitchen counter. She has recently taken to sitting up there, feet dangling off the edge of the countertop, while I cook breakfast for the family. She looked expectantly toward me. And I, the early morning grouch, let out several frustrated groans as I bent over to clean the floor.
The result broke my heart as I saw a cartoonishly sad frown creep across Sasha’s face as her eyes filled with tears. I scooped her up to comfort her, and soon she was back to herself and back on the counter.
But I thought about the incident all day, ashamedly turning the memory over in my head. It reminded me of how useless I sometimes felt as a child when I wanted to help with something, but an adult told me not to get in the way.
I’m discovering, as anyone who does childcare work I’m sure undoubtedly knows, that best practices often emerge from past mistakes. And so I’ve decided that I never want to make Sasha feel unhelpful again. Whatever I’m doing, I will try to let her help in whatever way she can, even if “helping” is more performative than useful.
Now, most mornings, Sasha still sits with me as we fix eggs. She knows her jobs well: turn on the ventilation fan and the light above the stove; warn me that the burner on the stove is “hotty;” gently hand me eggs; and remove the salt shaker from the cabinet above her head, pour its contents into a bowl and stir it with a spoon.
Beyond teaching me to be more patient, the experience has also been so much fun!
There are more messes in the kitchen, sure. We’ve had some close calls with carelessly passed eggs. And now Sasha wants to pour salt into bowls on the floor, salting the entire kitchen floor in the process. (The other day, when I remarked on how much salt was stuck to the bottom of my feet, Sasha understood the words “salt” and “feet” and knew exactly what I wanted — for her to come salt my feet.)
But bonding, laughter and teaching are worth any amount of salt in my shoes. And in the process, Sasha has learned a bunch of impressive skills as I’ve started involving her in household chores. She can pick her own tomatoes from the garden, and diligently washes them while I do the prep work for a big meal.
Now, if only I can learn not to be so damn grumpy in the mornings.
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