Independence and Empowerment
I was scrambling around like mad yesterday morning. Breakfast and lunch had to get made at the same time as I was kicking laundry down the basement steps and trying to fill the dishwasher. Somewhere in the swirl Beatrice and Otis decided to head upstairs in their pajamas to play. About five minutes later, I heard the off-kilter thumping of little feet coming down the stairs ka-plomp, ka-plomp. I looked up to see my children descending with proud grins. Despite the frigid temperature outside, Beatrice had put her favorite summer dress on, but there was a long-sleeve shirt underneath. She also had put on a pair of tights, and a long skirt billowed out beneath the dress. Otis was dressed just...backwards. Every item on him, from his underwear to his pants and shirt, was totally facing the wrong direction. But they had done it! And their proud grins were well deserved. Two months ago Otis wasn’t able to dress himself at all. Beatrice was now negotiating buttons and snaps that had stymied her before. Most of all, they had shown the confidence to just go give it a try. I was a glowing Poppa Bear!
Last week, 5 year old Corbin Berg showed up to school with a piece of construction paper stapled together as an envelope. He pulled out of it a folded piece of paper that read: “Dear Ben- This is a petition for dumplings for lunch. We would like to have Dumpling Day and Wednesday from the Dumpling House”. Beneath it were 20 numbered blank lines for signatures.
That petition sits on my desk as I write this, filled now with 31 signatures. I’d like to frame it! When we return from break, we will be having Dumplings on Wednesday, thanks almost completely to Corbin’s commitment and work. I am incredibly proud of him.
This week has been a great reminder to me that the most important educational work we do as parents and teachers often has nothing to do with academics. Children who feel capable, empowered, confident, and supported can do amazing things. I have to fight the urge to help my kids with difficult tasks. What they really need is guidance on how to help themselves, or how to get things done on their own.
I often fail at this- It’s much easier and faster to just put Otis’ shoes on for him than it is to sit and wait, and wait, and wait for him to put them on by himself. But the payoff is big when we do carve out the time and summon the patience needed to let our children figure out how to do things for themselves rather than doing things for them. With this approach, we find that even a 5 year old boy can make dumplings start to appear at his school every Wednesday!