A few days ago my wife and I were riding in the car with another couple headed to a concert for the evening. As we drove we all exchanged anecdotes about our day. When it was my wife’s turn she told about making cookies with our 4-year-old, Kate.
During her story the wife of the other couple optimistically asked if Kate was any good at baking or working in the kitchen. I abruptly answered for my wife with a firm, “No. No she isn’t.” She does what you would expect any 4-year-old to do. She makes a mess. A big mess. All she wants to do is eat the sugar that goes in the recipe and lick the spoon.
We all chuckled about the silly way kids act when they’re trying to do grown-up things. Then, my wife got her story back on track by saying, “In the end, it’s not about the cookies.”
When making cookies with Kate, she knows there’s a really good possibility the cookies could turn out horrible or never make it into the oven. But she knows, it’s not about the cookies, it’s about connecting. The reason we make cookies with Kate is for the possibility of sharing in a moment together and creating context for our relationship with her to grow. If the cookies actually turn out, that’s a bonus.
Nine times out of ten, Kate could care less if we’re making cookies, washing windows or sweeping the floor. What’s important to her is doing something together. She wants to share in our life. So we try to let her.
As parents, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important when it comes to our kids. In our house, we value efficiency, order, productivity and not repeating things twice. When we bring those values into shared moments with our kids we are easily angered and disappointed. We end up losing sight of what’s most important and the potential to grow our relationship is lost. It becomes about the cookies, the windows or the floor when it really should be about connecting with our daughters.
So next time your kids ask, “Can I help?” Let go of your timetable. Be ok with your end product being less than perfect. Get down on their level and embrace the moment that comes, whatever it may be.
Where have you seen the same thing happen in your relationships with your kids?