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The Messy Middle

There's a popular saying going around the parenting world these days that goes something like this…

"Don't stop your kids from doing dangerous things carefully."

Honestly, I absolutely love the perspective and try to embrace it daily, especially with my overly excited, throw caution to the wind 10 year old boy who is always exploring, imagining, pushing boundaries, and trying new things.

However, I'd like to add to it and say "Don't keep them from learning new things by expecting them to be able to do new and (to them) sometimes quite difficult things perfectly."

Not quite sure what I mean? Here's an example…

Today Noah wanted to help mow the lawn. I was excited at the thought of him taking ownership of one of the many family responsibilities and so I readily agreed! Next thing you know my detail oriented, planner self had him out in the yard modeling for him the proper way to mow and pointing out how easy it is to simply go back and forth in perfect lines all of the way across the yard. And before you know it…. voila! You are done! The lawn is mowed!

For me, someone who has mowed the yard quite possibly a million times in my lifetime, this is a very simple task with very simple and straightforward instructions that anyone should be able to follow and execute perfectly.

So I hand the mower over to Noah and off he goes! By the second swipe he was way off course and by the time he declared the mowing job DONE there were...

1. Zero straight lines but rather some crazy geometric shapes going on because he "got bored just going back and forth." 🐿️

2. A nice smattering of feathers strewn across the yard because he ran over a dead bird thinking it would "suck up into the bag like a vacuum." 🤦‍♀️

3. A few random triangle patches of tall grass in the middle of the yard that he avoided because there were sticks that he didn't want to run over with the lawn mower after the (ahem) bird incident.

So, let me ask you, was this a successful lawn mowing experience for Noah? 100% YES!

Now, you may be thinking to yourself "SUCCESFUL!?!? But didn't you have to go back out and just redo the whole thing yourself?" Sure did! So how can a job I had to COMPLETELY REDO be considered a success?

Because, even though it was not done the way I would have done it, even though it was not done to the degree of excellence with with I would have done it, and even thought I had to bite my tongue and resist the incredibly strong urge to step in, correct, and take over - it was done and HE had done it!

You see, I have to remember that Noah hasn't mowed the yard a zillion times like I have and so doesn't quite get the importance and efficiency of mowing in "boring straight lines".

He also doesn't have the experience to instinctively know to pick up the sticks BEFORE mowing and not just mowing around them.

And I have to remember Noah is not a 37 year old me with decades of practice and life experience but rather a 10 year old boy, with the attention span and creativity of a 10 year old boy. So staying focused long enough to even mow the yard, let alone doing so with the presence of mind to think "this thing that can cut a blade of grass is SURELY gonna be chopping up that dead bird", is quite the learning process and obstacle he is overcoming all on it's now.

So today was a success because Noah learned! He learned that it's more work when you don't follow the process. He learned it's important to stop and remove the obstacles (aka sticks) and not just go around them. And he learned that when you are mowing the yard and see any form of dead animal go ahead and stop the mower and go get mom and dad to help. 😜😂

So here's to giving instruction but then biting our tongues as our growing littles learn to do new things carefully, cautiously, and most likely FAR from perfectly. And here's to allowing our kids the space and grace to learn and grow in the messy middle of it all.

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