It’s been awhile since I wrote here so I’ll fill you in on key details relevant to what I want to talk about: I moved in with Gray several months ago. We have his children over every other week for the weekend. There are three children: the eldest two are girls, 9 and 7 and the youngest is a boy who has just turned 6.
This weekend we have the kids over and they tell me they’re hungry so I promise them I’m about to start fixing dinner. “Yes,” says the middle girl. “But can we help?”
And to be honest, I don’t want them to help me cook. They’re good children, enthusiastic and eager to please but they aren’t knowledgeable or coordinated. They are children. When they help a task will take twice as long for every child who gets involved in helping, I’ll have to speak a lot, explaining things several times without showing any signs of impatience. The whole time I’ll be thinking wistfully of the homework I have to do, the other work I have to catch up on, and the myriad of little things I’d rather be doing than teaching one to three eager, excited children how to make taco fixings.
Teaching children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m clever and creative, I can come up with fun games to play with coins and pretend shops for learning about money. I can come up with beans and visual representations of letters, we can play sound games all day and that’s all very helpful for them. But it is exhausting. It’s endless effort that you pour into them with no immediate, visible result. It is sooo much easier to send to them to school and after school tutoring, sign them up for summer classes in this and that. God, let someone ELSE teach them, someone who’s good at this and gets paid (hah!) to do it.
It seems like an act of selflessness to surrender whatever you’d rather be doing and devote yourself to explaining something to children. To letting them make a mess in your kitchen or wreck something you kinda like with a screwdriver. Frankly, I don’t want to do it. But once upon a time, I was an uncoordinated child full of bumbling, interested enthusiasm and questions. And I can’t remember a single time anyone ever turned me away. My grandmother alone spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of man hours handing me mazes to cross stitch through, letting me “help” with dinner. Unpaid and unthanked. I’d rather not do it but I can’t even remember them showing any frustration or irritation. Was my father’s generation better than mine? Were my grandparents more selfless than I am capable of?
Nope! Because they invested all that time in me, to create a functional and interesting person who would one day pay that investment forward into these three small children. So, if I’ve read my social contract properly, I guess I’m going to have all the help with dinner that I can handle. \o/