Thursday, April 17, 2008

Helping by not helping

This morning, on the official first day of spring (meaning I pulled my flip-flops out of the closet,) I took the girls to Tilles Park and its acre-wide playground. They ate their muffies on a park bench while eying with jealousy the kids who were already playing on the swings. They stuffed the last bits in their mouths and jumped down, running with their mouths full toward the swings. After tiring me out there, they turned their attention to the playground monstrosity - three stories of ladders and slides. The third story is only accessible by a tall ladder that Kate has never attempted. She walked over and looked up the ladder. A mom who was standing there scooped up Kate and lifted her up onto the third story, which I really wish she hadn't done because I knew what would result. Kate now found herself placed higher than she had ever been with no clue how to get down. She started crying. If she had been able to get herself up there I don't think she would have been as scared. I had to climb up and get her down.

A little while later she made her way back to the ladder and asked me to help her up. Instead of doing what the mom did, I helped her move her hands and feet up the ladder to learn how to climb it herself. She flashed a proud smile when she reached the top and found the big slide to get herself down. She ran back to the ladder and asked for help again. I didn't help her. "Try to do it yourself." She didn't like that. She cried and jumped up and down asking for help. "You can do it." She threw herself on the ground crying.

Kate is stubborn and independent, but she gives up on things much too easily. One of her most common phrases at home is, "I can't do it," often before she's really tried. As the younger sibling who has a dad who comes to her rescue, she has started to rely on me to do things she finds difficult. I'm not OK with that. I'll lend a hand, but not as a substitute for her to do things herself.

So there she was having a mini tantrum on the playground. I said, "if you can't get up there yourself then maybe you're not ready to play up there." That did it. She looked up at me with anger in her eyes, stood up and went back to the ladder. She never looked back at me as she slowly placed one foot above the other, reaching her little hands up to the next bar. There was a moment near the top where her body started shaking and I had to stop myself from coming to her aid. She lifted her leg over onto the third floor and stood up. "I did it!" She held her arms up and I clapped for her.

For the next twenty minutes, Kate did nothing but climb the ladder and slide down the big slide over and over and over.


Tracy Bittle said...

The Ladder Story reminds me of the harmonica I bought the girls. Yes readers, I left Kate and Clara with many band instruments after my visit with the girls. I had taken the girls to pick out their instruments a few days before I actually brought them out for them to play with. I like to tease Joel and Megan about the toys they used to buy for my kids and I had a fun time planned.

On the day the toys came out of the bag, Clara picked up each one and mastered them with ease. Kate loved her drum "with sticks" as they both called it. The harmonica and kazoo were on the top list of the coveted band toys. Clara picked them both right up and knew exactly what to do. Kate had trouble. I showed her how to blow into the side with holes and make some noise. She kept forgetting to look for the side with holes. I have a series of photos with Kate trying to learn the harmonica. They range from a tear streaked snotty nose face to outright crying. She alternated between throwing the harmonica down on the ground, stomping her feet and picking it back up again for another try. As sad as it was to see her so frustrated, I enjoyed watching her face when she did manage to make music.

I'm not sure I ever showed Joel and Meg those photos because they were pretty sad looking. I didn't want them to think I had beaten her while they were gone.

Enjoy your vacation! I need one too.

Dayna said...

Way to go, Dad! Great story.

Farrell said...

Ooh I'll have to try that. My daughter is like me in that if she can't do it perfect, she wont' even attempt it. I wish she was like her dad, who thinks he can do everything perfect!