I’ll never forget that first day Adeline toddled past me with a small frying pan clutched in her chubby hands and put it in the cabinet without a hitch. I’ll never forget the response my husband gave me when I called him to come and watch our (then) 18-month-old return to the dishwasher for another dish.
“I’ve been teaching her,” were the words.
And ever since that chapter – which I have fondly dubbed, “The Toddler and the Frying Pan” – I have been teaching her as well. Oh, how ready we are to underestimate the abilities of our little ones! I was quickly discovering that a little mind is a sponge for learning, and that little hands always want to be doing. Why not actively guide those little hands to be constructive?
Therefore, by age two Adeline was already quite the helper, oftentimes noticing a need before I did and sometimes even trying to fulfill that need on her own. She once noted a puddle of water on the floor, which I told her I would take care of later. A whole hour passed before I remembered the spill and was surprised to find it already wiped dry. The only evidence left behind was a towel used by efficient little hands.
And that is only a small glimpse of what a two-year-old is capable of. Tasks that she was able to help me with on a regular basis at that age included unloading all the silverware (excluding the knives of course!) and many of the dishes from the dishwasher, loading the washer and emptying the dryer, folding and putting away clothing. She carried food from the refrigerator to the counter, stirred food in a pot, cracked and whisked eggs, sprinkled herbs, and sometimes even set the table. On occasion she helped with dusting and would use her own little broom to sweep up post-meal crumbs.
And at only two she was also already such a big help when it came to her siblings. I never needed to look for a pacifier with Adeline in the house. Even then she was quick to sooth a crying sister or brother, give the baby in the swing a push, and pass wipes to mommy during diaper changes. Not to mention the gentle words and many kisses she liberally bestowed, and of course still does.
And Adeline is no longer the only one included in learning to help around the house. Our twin two-year-old’s are just as anxious to have their hands busily involved in the tasks of the day. Their pace of learning differs somewhat from Adeline’s, but their curiosity does not, and so we plug away.
I think I may know what many of you momma’s are thinking. “How do you get anything done with all these little ‘helpers?!'” Alright, full disclosure: Some days it seems we have made more mess than headway. However, I think it is very important to look at the long-term goal. Ultimately, I desire for my children to be disciplined, independent adults who are able to function well in homes of their own. Of course, one of the lovely by-products of working towards this goal is that eventually our children will be more efficiently involved in the workings of our home, which will greatly bless the whole family.
Yes, right now teaching them takes three times as long as me simply doing the task on my own. Yes, there are days I try to skirt around my children “helping” me. But these tedious moments of teaching little hands to help are not wasted moments. And though for now the house may not feel perfectly clean, these years of faithfully sowing seeds will one day yield the most tidy little gardens imaginable.