Thursday, June 16, 2011


My favorite little helper isn't always that helpful. 

The mess?  Those irritating styrofoam peanuts that arrive with breakable objects in the mail.  Whoever invented the stuff is on my hit list, and certainly has no children.  After the entertainment value of making it "snow" in the living room had passed, Annike says "Mama, should we clean?" and ran to grab the broom.

How can a mother say no to such willingness? 

I knew, of course, that the outcome of her interaction with the broom would be styrofoam beads spread into every little crevice in the living room.  I knew there would be no compact pile to sweep into the trash can.  But my response was one of patience and gentleness... Of course you can attempt to clean up your mess!

This little one loves to "help".  While much of me dreads the larger mess that will be created in the process, there is a knowing voice that whispers not to squelch her willing heart... to allow her the freedom to do something she really is not that good at yet... to be patient with her though the helpfulness might not be so helpful.

Yesterday, Annike got hungry a little earlier than usual.  Instead of the usual whining and sudden downturn in disposition, she pulled her little stool up to the kitchen counter top and said, "Mama, shall we make dinner?" 

Half of everything I cut up ended in her mouth.  She spilled vegetables on the floor and counter top - extra mess that I probably would not have made.  And it took me twice as long to make dinner because I had to keep pulling her fingers out of the food.  But in the middle of it all, she was involved in a way that made my heart happy. 

I am glad for her helpful spirit, despite the setbacks it may cause me.  There is something about her desire to help that gives me a glimpse into the little person God made her to be.  See, she isn't helpful because I have taught her well.  She is helpful because of the little personality that God gave her.  But don't go thinking I don't have an important role to play in it - I do!  I have the oh-so-important responsibility of shaping the personality that God has already given her.  I have the power to teach her helpfulness into the corner by squelching it, by opting to do tasks on my own because I am in a hurry (which I am, most of the time), by telling her no because she might make a bigger mess for me to clean.  Or I have the power to teach her that her helpfulness is a gift and she will shine when she uses it.

Don't get me wrong, it is not like Annike is dying to pick up her toys every time I ask her.  She has her tantrums and her rebellious moments.  No one ever had to teach a child to be selfish.  But the task of raising a child in a way that highlights the good, God-given, traits while minimizing the selfish, ugly glimpses of human nature is no small task.  It is our calling as prayerful mothers to discover those gifts in our children and encourage them to shine in this individual way... and in the meantime, God still has some work to do in me too through the discovery of it... like building a little patience in me.

Just so I don't feel too guilty posting this picture, I need to say that it was take right before I got pregnant, which is quite a few months ago now.  This means, unfortunately for me, that we both look a little different right now... but the look of pride in Annike's face when she helps is the same as always.