I can clearly remember being at a friends party several summers ago. His son wanted to help cut his birthday cake. My friend handed his son the seemingly HUGE knife and said "Here, son. This is the way you cut a cake with a knife." My friend then turned to some of the adults standing around and said "If he wants to use the knife it's my job to be sure he knows how to do it correctly." I must confess that I was one of THOSE friends.
I was quietly appalled. No way, I thought. I continued an internal dialog that warned of the dangers of letting a child so young even touch a knife much less use it for any task. He was much too young and that lesson was misplaced. As a parent I would have said no. As a parent I would have had the final say. As a parent I would have decided the time and place for any lesson dealing with anything "dangerous". Clearly I was qualified to make such judgments because I had NO children of my own.
Miss Moo is quite bright for not quite two and a half. I know that all parents think that their children are smart and rightly so. There are a few areas where she seems to excel and at times that clouds our memory her age. Lately she has been very interested in helping me in the kitchen during meals and particularly at dinner time. Most nights I spend more time redirecting and then fussing for failed listening on her part than I did listening TO her.
A few weeks ago I was cutting vegetables for our salad while the girls played in the family room. Moo meandered her way into the kitchen and pulled her step stool up to the cart where I was cutting vegetables. "I want to help you Mommy!" she excitedly announced. My first instinct was to send her back to play and remind her that knives aren't toys for little girls. Then suddenly I heard my friend's voice :
"Here, son. This is the way you cut a cake with a knife."
There was a lesson residing in this moment. Was it a lesson that would be taught?
Did I have the final say as the parent? Of course. Did I say no? Of course not. I smiled and began to show her how to hold a table knife and how to hold the cucumber. We practiced keeping the knife on the end far away from our fingers. We worked slowly. We worked together and then on our own. Making salad was very smooth and stress free that evening.
As parents, there is no manual that magically appears when we have our children. The is a sense of right and wrong, but I have learned more often than not there is a huge area of "grey". Each child is different. How boring would it be if all children learned in the same way at the same pace? Grey areas can cause a parent and child a great deal of frustration. However they can also be a space of great joy and learning for everyone. Our grey spaces have evolved- we now see the rainbow after the storm rather than the grey skies.
Perhaps I should call my friend and tell him thanks.