Monday, March 31, 2014

Do Stuff With Them

I’ve mentioned before that life seems to hand me lessons to learn over and over again. This one comes back to me on a regular basis. Maybe I need to learn it again for each stage of their development?

Our Girl Scout troop went on our spring overnight this weekend. We had five girls and five moms at a beautiful campsite. The rain held off, we cooked our food, explored nature, chilled out a bit, and had a fantastic time. Not much sleep, but a fabulous time.

As soon as we got there, my camping-with-kids instincts took over, which, oddly, trump my parenting instincts in some ways. Back in the day, I was a counselor at Camp Arrowhead. Both camp and the Girl Scouts believe in letting the kids do the work. So we kicked off our overnight by letting the girls make lunch for their moms.

Now that sounds horrible, right? But does it really?

I recently read an article—which I’ve completely lost track of, but if someone finds it, I’ll credit it—that pointed out school is, in many ways unnatural. For most of human existence, children followed parents or adults of their community around and learned to be like them. They weren’t isolated with their peers and one adult.

That made me think of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The children in all the books not only learn by following their parents around, watching and helping, but they aspire to be like their parents. Almanzo dreams of the day when his father decides he’s ready for…wait for it…more, harder work. And, on top of that, the work the children do substantially helps their families. They can see the value of it, after they’ve stomped out fire in their haystacks or ground meal to keep the family from starving.

All that’s great on paper. Then there’s real life.

Our kids are getting a little older and we’ve started doing the whole thing where I say, “Can you please do this?” and they say, “Unnnngh” and roll their eyes and drag their feet.

Now, that ain’t happening here. No way.

But I also prefer to prevent behaviors—channel energy in a positive direction, give them something better to do, use their power for good rather than evil—however you want to look at it, if I can. This one had been stumping me, though.

At least, it stumped me until I watched how happily our Girl Scouts served their moms sandwiches, swept, gathered wood, made fires, washed dishes, and generally helped out. Proud of their skills, the older girls made meals by using knives and matches. They loved what they learned and did--even I can catch on with evidence like that!

So, yesterday Big A. had to go to work. The kids and I got together to make a traditional Italian meal for Sunday night supper—as a surprise for Daddy.

Well, that got them interested. First we shopped for ingredients and a special dessert Daddy would like. Then they found out all the “cool” stuff they “got” to do—they both peeled garlic and chopped bread crumbs. They helped season it. Little A. loved opening a giant can of tomatoes. S. chopped all the onions: “Mommy, they really do make you cry—it’s not just in cartoons.”

They used the hand blender to “search and destroy” tomatoes in the sauce. Little A. really loved that one, giggling as he pulled the trigger on each tomato.

We ended up making an amazing dinner—it just truly tasted fantastic. But even better than that? The kids and I had one of the best days ever. They wanted to work. They loved the results. I loved not getting one single eyeroll. Big A. loved his surprise.

Lots of love going around, people. Do stuff with your kids!

The kid has chops.

This is how we roll...garlic!

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