A few months ago my youngest sprog was having some trouble in school. The kind where they phone up Mom and ask her to come have a talk with Junior about his behavior. The kind where it takes some time and work to straighten out the problem (and we’re still working on it).
When we were home my little guy started spending all his time alone in his room, which is very unlike him—he’s a little extrovert. But I could catch the vibe easily enough; when all you hear from the people around you is how badly you’re doing, you get to where you don’t want people around you. Believe me, I know exactly how that feels.
One afternoon I went back and knocked on his door. “Hey, can you give me a hand making cookies?”
Yep, he could do that.
Some pundit once observed that the hardest thing in the world is to know how to do something, and watch someone else do it wrong. And in many cases, “wrong” means “not how I would do it.” My little guy wanted to do all the cookie-making steps, with no help, and of course he’d never done them before so he didn’t have the experience to know how to mix the dough perfectly smooth or make each cookie exactly the same size. I was good, I didn’t try to tell him to do it differently, or offer to do it for him. After all, it wasn’t rocket science, it was cookies, and cookies don’t have to be perfect. The whole point of the exercise was to let him do something so he could feel good about himself again.
Most of them turned out quite good. A few of the really small ones were a bit on the dark side of done, but some of us actually prefer them that way. And my little guy stopped hiding out in his room so much. Mission accomplished.
A little later we were planning for Thanksgiving, writing down all the things we wanted to have for our big meal of the day. My little cookie-maker announced that he would make us all cookies to have for dessert. So I made sure we had the ingredients on hand, and he did. This time I didn’t even stay in the kitchen to supervise; he mixed it all up, and whenever he had a pan ready he called me over to put them in the oven.
Last month he noticed we had some lemonade drink mix in the cupboard and asked me if I’d make some for him. I started to head for the kitchen, and then stopped. “You know, if you can make cookies you can certainly make lemonade. That’s way easier than cookies.”
“How do I do it?”
“Just follow the directions on the package.”
And by George, he did. Now he can have lemonade whenever he wants, without having to wait until a parent comes to mix some up for him. Needless to say we always have lemonade now.
And he’s still having some trouble in school, although that’s improving. But at least now he knows his trouble in school doesn’t mean he’s not competent as a person, which is a good thing to know.