Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#39: Lessons from an Ice Cream Cone

2011-02-12_11-16-19_179.jpgIt happens to the best of us. Maybe a child is working on a project in a way that seems less than efficient. Or they're trying to master a task that feels like second nature to you. No matter what the scenario may be, most of us are guilty of jumping in and taking over -- all in the name of "helping."

Lesson #39: Back off.

Not only is there research that shows that letting kids "fail" is actually good for them, but most of the time we butt in, it's not even to keep them from crashing, it's to avoid witnessing a mess made in our kitchen, to save a few minutes or even to ensure the outcome will be worthy of what we deem up to snuff.

Take this ice cream cone, for example. At a recent four-year-old birthday party, Lucy made her painting selection and chose her colors, black being just one of them. As I watched her paint and sponge the cone, covering it entirely in black while she ignored the pretty shades of pinks and blues, it took everything in me not to grab the brush and do it myself.

But did I step in?


Sort of.

I pointed out the other color options, lined up brushes for each so she wouldn't have to mix colors together and made a couple of suggestions. But it was clear she wasn't interested in anything I had to say, as she continued to proudly spread the ebony paint around the ceramic frozen treat.

Close by, I could see a dad "helping" his son, who must have been around 6 years old. As he held the brush, dipped it in the paint and moved it around on a mug, he gave step by step lessons on how the job is done, while his son, visibly discouraged, sat by and watched. I couldn't help but feel bad for the kid, but actually felt worse for the dad. Because I really think he was trying to have a moment with his child, not realizing that he was bulldozing over his project.

For me, that morning was host to just one of the many lightbulb moments of my life. As I looked at Lucy's beaming face, I realized that true love sometimes means knowing when to butt out and offer another person the space and support they need to create something beautiful.

May that ugly ice cream cone continue to serve as a reminder that it's not about creating something perfect, but finding what's perfect in everything -- a tough, yet very satisfying, lesson for this control freak.

No comments: