We were moving my brother and his family into a new house. More specifically, we were moving their belongings (they’ll move themselves).
It was time to get the mattresses and the box springs into the flatbed. We assessed the situation and decided to start with the biggest one. It was an “up the stairs,” “out the back door,” and “around the house” situation. There was some problem-solving do.
Our eight-year-old and our six-year-old stood by watching as my brother and I wrangled over a plan only to go with brute force in the end.
With cavernous but gritty smiles they stood in and around our mobile moving worksite, hands on the mattress, insisting that they were being helpful. We stepped on and tripped over them with just about every awkward, backward, blind stride.
They must have tired of being the “B” team because they decided to move the next one on their own.
When we reached to the top of the stairs they announced that they were going back for a box spring. Ready to be clear of the underfoot obstacle I called out, “Go for it!”
I expected that upon our return they would be pushing and shoving and toiling, and that we would jump in and lend a hand. I underestimated them.
In fact, when we return, our two mighty mites were already at the top of the stairs, with the box spring, and moving forward undeterred.
My brother and I smiled at one another. We decided it was break time. Instead of lending a hand we stood back and watched as the fellas hauled that load the rest of the way and even up into the truck.
They struggled mightily at a few points. I bit my tongue and held my station. I would not and did not step in.
It’s difficult to admit that these kids are going to have to be able to get along on their own one day, and even more difficult to admit that they’re going to have to want to.
If all goes well I will eventually become obsolete along their journey.
They don’t belong to us.
Regarding kids, adults are simply stewards.
Our job is watch over them only until they can to watch over themselves, and worse, to do so in a way that ensures it happens with relative expedience.
I hope to remain connected with my kids for the duration of whatever time I’m gifted. I hope to be enlisted for brainstorming through challenges, to be invited to celebrate during triumphs, to talk frequently, to visit regularly, to help move things and do stuff as often as possible.
However, even more than that, if these things are realized I hope they rest on a foundation of want rather than need.
When a kid says he wants to try doing something on his own you say, “Go for it!”
Your repeated, overt and expressed confidence in his strength and ability might just be the thing that helps him understand what it means to grow.
Your encouragement could help him know that failure is actually learning in progress.
Your support for his self-determined risk taking is likely to inspire a pathway to independence.
Kids can, and sometimes we can help them know it by stepping aside.
Expectations and opportunities are powerful things. It’s up to us to provide both with true aim & intentionality.
In it together for the kids!
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.