I circled the parking lot on a scorching summer Saturday, needing to return my movie to one of those movie-vending-machines that you find inside the grocery store. The idea of unloading and hauling two kids out of the car, across the parking lot, and into the store for such a menial task was unappealing, but necessary. So I kept searching for a spot to open up that didn’t require me to walk a quarter-mile with my sleeping toddler, but the weekend rush was in full swing and the lot was swarming with cars and people.
And then from the back seat, my enthusiastic six-year-old piped up: “Can I do it, mommy? I can do it! Please?!?”
And my brain said – You’re too young. It’s too busy. I need to go with you.
But then my lips said – “Sure, let’s try.”
So I circled the parking lot one more time and slowly pulled up in front of the store, practically on the sidewalk, where I had a clear view through the floor-to-ceiling windows and this mama bear could watch like a hawk. I put on my four-way flashers because I’m sure I was blocking traffic and in a definite no-parking zone.
“You just walk in there and come right back. Never go where you can’t see me. Don’t talk to strangers.” For goodness’ sake, it’s like I was sending him off to overnight camp, not 100 feet away from me to a self-service movie machine.
So he hopped out, skipped through the front doors, and walked confidently up to the machine. But it was too complicated; he couldn’t quite figure it out. I saw him timidly back up, then approach it again. Still a little confused, I watched him turn, ready to come ask for help. I watched him walk up to the machine yet again. I watched him glance back at me in hesitation, then stare intently at the screen with his head cocked to the side, trying to will his little brain to read the words.
And then he did it.
He ran back out through those doors, full-tilt, with his face absolutely radiating with pride. “I did it, mommy! I did it all by myself!”
And I told him how incredibly proud I was of him for being persistent, figuring it out, and not giving up. And I told him how incredibly helpful he had been to me and his little sister, so I didn’t have to wake her for such a simple chore.
And he beamed all the way home.
As we watch our kids grow, one day dissolves into the next, and we don’t really realize how much they’ve grown until we step back and really notice. We forget that they mature and develop and that they become capable earlier than we probably notice.
I’ve always had my kids help out with cooking and household chores, and though it can make things messier and more complicated in the short-term, I’ve valued the lessons I was teaching them and the message I was sending them – you are capable.
Recently we had a service opportunity at our church. From the description, it seemed like something I could easily bring my son to. He was capable. I mentioned it to him. He was excited.
Always the rule-follower, though, I thought it wise to send a quick email to the organizer to make sure it was okay.
I was disappointed, but as time passed, I got upset. Something felt “off.” I couldn’t put my finger on it. But then I did.
“It’s not a good activity for a little one,” the email read.
My son, he is young. But he is school-aged. He is no longer a little one. And he is capable.
I expressed my disappointment but respected the response. I went to the activity without him and felt like I contributed. I felt good about it. But after I left I thought, Conlan could totally have done that.
As moms, we need to recognize the capabilities of our kids and acknowledge when they move from little to young and capable. And I think we need to encourage others to recognize it, too.
Might things take a little longer? Might it take a little more effort or organization to explain the process? Might we need to be on our toes a bit more to make sure our kids are doing the task appropriately?
Yes, yes, and yes.
But that extra effort is worth it. Kids are totally capable of serving, and we need to find opportunities for them to do so instead of making excuses as to why to exclude them.
There’s something to be said about working together as a family, as a body of Christ, being a part of the larger community rather than relegated to serve only through opportunities that are offered through the children’s programs.
So if you’re a mom, look for ways to help your child serve in ways that they are capable. And if you organize such opportunities, find ways to welcome kids and their families.
I’m confident more families would participate in such things if they knew their kids were included. And though some things might be more complicated, for most things it’s the more, the merrier.
Let’s lighten our load by sharing it. Let’s share it with our kids.
After all, they are capable.