My friend Stephanie sent me this article from the New Yorker a few months ago, and I just haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.
It basically posits that the less we expect from our children, the less we get.
It compares the competence of a six year old in the Peruvian Amazon (who is expected to be able to wield a machete, set up a camp, clean fish and cook dinner for a large camping party) to an average eight year old American girl who has a fit at the dinner table because her plate is set before the silverware. “How am I supposed to eat this?!?” she rails … and then Dad gets up to get her silverware.
It goes further to tell how thirty years ago, a child entering kindergarten already knew how to read. A six year old could be expected to run an errand (walk to the store , about 4 blocks away, to pick up milk and ice cream) and return home.
We live in a different time and a different place.
Obviously, we’re not in the Amazon. And crime exists in our world that didn’t exist thirty years ago, so it’s not practical to send our kids to the store by themselves.
But the lesson is that we don’t expect much from our kids.
If we don’t believe they can learn how to read until they get to school (and we don’t take the responsibility to teach them to read), then they won’t learn to read until they get to school.
If we don’t teach them to make their beds … or load the dishwasher … or sort the laundry … or whatever … If we don’t give them the pencils to draw a picture, how can we expect them to become an artist?
If we don’t give them the tools to develop their independence, how can we expect them to be independent and happy and secure and confident and successful and all the things we want for our children?
I’m not saying it’s easy.
Or that I don’t make a thousand mistakes every day.
Or that I wasn’t nervous the first time she took my friend Sherry’s dog Sadie for a walk (knowing that before she reached the driveway, she’d likely wind up in a heap on the ground) …
Or that it’s easy to wait for a toddler to dress herself and to put on her own shoes and socks.
It’s not convenient to watch a 3 year old open a container of yogurt, pour it into her bowl, and then dump the rest of the contents on the floor (by accident).
It’s not fun to clean up the mess in the bathroom after a butterfly princess brushes her teeth, washes her face and gets ready for bed.
It takes patience.
It takes a lot of deep breathing.
And it takes a lot longer to rake the leaves when tots are involved.
But then I think about how much easier it is to maneuver through the airport since she carries her own bag and I think …
“We may not be in the Amazon, but we’re doing okay …”
P.S. Don’t forget to register for our $40 Gap gift card giveaway this week!