My 7-year-old stands beside the counter, watching me chop a head of romaine into slender strips.
“Can I try?” he asks.
“No. This is a grown-up job,” I say. Reflex. Without thinking. I catch myself, “You can help me rinse it in a minute.”
As he spins the lettuce in the salad spinner, I have a moment to pause and reconsider his request. I’ve found myself saying No too often lately, and trying to remember the word I chose for 2014 – Pause. I chose it to prompt myself to stop and enjoy the present, or to give my kids my full attention for a few minutes, or to just to step back and breathe before going forward.
On second thought, a 7-year-old is probably perfectly capable of using a knife under adult supervision.
It isn’t the first time in recent weeks that it has dawned on me that Zip is old enough to do a lot of things that I might not immediately count him capable of. He’s growing up faster than I can wrap my head around sometimes.
We resumed chore charts last month and, at his request, Zip was granted some new responsibilities – like taking out the trash. Taking out the trash! My 7-year-old wants to take out the trash! I should enjoy that while I can, right? He does a great job, too.
At 7, he is eager to take on new responsibilities, to master new skills, and to feel grown-up. I’m learning that, unlike when a little one helps, most of the time his assistance actually helps me get the job done faster. How is that for turning a corner?
This afternoon he helped me dig up the hostas in our flower bed and replace them with sedum, enthusiastically patting the soil back into place and spreading the mulch carefully around the new plants. I sure didn’t mind digging a few less holes!
“This is fun,” he told me. And that is the best part. Working side-by-side, a “chore” becomes something special – a shared moment between momma and son, an opportunity to teach him a new skill. I showed him how to mix the potting soil with the soil already in the bed, explaining how it helps the plant grow; I showed him how to place the new plant properly in the hole. Rather than waiting until he is older and not interested, I can take advantage of the fact he still cherishes our time together. I can capitalize on his eagerness to learn. So much better to sow the seeds while the soil is soft, right?
Back to the kitchen…
“Why don’t you help me chop the cucumber?” I hand him the knife, reminding him it is sharp enough to take off his sweet little finger tips, and show him how to use it safely. He chops the cucumber and the celery, even the red head of cabbage. “I want to pour it in the bowl,” he tells me. He tosses the salad and puts in on the table and does everything except actually eat it.