My older kids are very involved in taekwondo. Since we’re at the school three, four, sometimes more nights a week, the little one was sort of born into the place.
From when we first brought her there, we’d been marking time until she turned three and would be old enough for the class of youngest students—the Lil’Dragons.
We have a situation in our house. A three-year-old lives there. She’s very short and very smart and very strong and wants to do everything. Here are some examples of life with her:
Person A: Person B, can you please pass the salt?
Three-year-old: I’ll do it! I’ll do it! I’ll do it! I want to pass the salt! Give me the salt, I want to do it!
Then Person B ends up getting the salt, handing it to the Three-year-old, who then hands it to Person A (knocking over a cup and getting her sleeve in someone else’s food in the process), or the salt ends up with Person A, who has to give it to the Three-year-old before using it, and then ask for it from her, acting as though the whole Person B interference never happened.
Person A: Persons B and C, can you help me bring in the groceries from the car?
Three year-old: I’ll do it! I’ll do it! I’ll do it! I want to bring in groceries from the car! I want to carry them in!
This means she has to stop, drop, put her shoes on the wrong feet, get out the door, run to the car and get handed a grocery bag which Person A has emptied most of the contents from to make light enough for Three-year-old to carry on her own.
The soundtrack of my life these days is that “Helping” tune from Free to Be You and Me, the one that Shel Silverstein wrote and Tommy Smothers sings:
Agatha Fry, she made a pie
And Christopher John helped bake it
Christopher John, he mowed the lawn
And Agatha Fry helped rake it
Now, Zachary Zugg took out the rug
And Jennifer Joy helped shake it
Then Jennifer Joy, she made a toy
And Zachary Zugg helped break it
And some kind of help is the kind of help
That helping’s all about
And some kind of help is the kind of help
We all can do without
On an album all about feminism and equality, I always thought that was an odd selection. But, it’s my landline these days, because that Shel, he knows kids. He’s been there and back and given us the word. I guess the point of including it on that particular album was to show that boys and girls, black, white or purple, are all equally annoying when they’re three. I sing that last line like it’s part of the Lord’s Prayer. The Three-year-old just thinks I’m funny.
But, the sad thing is, somewhere along the way, that enthusiasm fades away and we realize that the things we were so eager to help with before are actually work and we acquire an aversion to work. It’s also quite interesting how our enjoyment of work decreases at the same rate as the expectation of work increases.
Think about what YOU could do in your adult body with your adult brain if you had the enthusiasm and reckless desire to do good of a three-year-old. You’d be freaking Wonder Woman! Shit would get done. But, you don’t. None of us do. We sit and think Aww, shoot, do I really have to get up and do that, or can I put it off…or make someone else do it? Because that’s what being an adult is. We pace our energy expenditures and use our big brains to figure out ways of avoiding expending too much energy.
This cross over seems to happen in my house at around the age of 8. Maybe it happens at a different age in other houses, I don’t know, Shel hasn’t written a poem or asked a Smothers Brother to sing a song about that yet. But, I can tell you in my family, the thirteen year-old has passed through and is on our grown-up side now. He can spot a bit of work a mile away, no matter how well you think you’re dressing it up. He knows work and will do it if you make him (or compensate him for it). But, otherwise, he’s got better things to do, like lying on the couch, staring up at the ceiling and whining about how bored he is. The first part of last year, the middle one could be “Tom Sawyered” into doing something for you, but then she’d realize at some point during the task that it was actually work. So, we got a lot of windows cleaned, surfaces dusted and floors swept part way through before the grumbling started. Now, at nine, she knows better.
I guess the point is, take the help now while you can get it. A little clumsy, but enthusiastic and eager to please isn’t the worst thing a kid could be. They mean well at this age and really want to help. So, buy those miniature Dirt Devils that really vacuum, get the broom with the turtle face on it, invest in Swiffer products, because this isn’t going to last, so exploit it for all it’s worth.
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