Applauding less than
Every parent has trouble applauding less than the best. Because Dave is a contractor, we have endless pieces of lumber and plenty of nails at our place. Our boys learned to work with Dave at an early age. Their days were more frequent and longer than they wished, but they had no choice.
Dave is meticulous in his work and he expected the same from his sons, even though they were too young to be as particular and accurate as he was. Nevertheless, he expected them to do their best and did not want to be embarrassed if their work was below par. Even if they designed something themselves, he expected their work to show that their father was a carpenter. Even when they designed it on their own, he expected more. It was difficult for him to applaud less than the best.
One day one of the boys came into the house with a small cabinet-type shelf he made for me. He proudly showed me his shelf and I applauded his work. Of course I noticed it was less than perfect, but the fact that he made it for me warmed my heart. The boy was probably six years old.
Then his father came home. He was not impressed. The board nails were not straight and he would have been glad to help if only he were asked!
When a child attempts to do something on his own, he needs to be applauded unless he is disobeying rules that are in place. Even though the shelf did not fit together tightly, he should be applauded. Even though the nails were too large, too visible, and too uneven, he needed recognition for his attempt. In addition, he needed recognition for the simple fact that he wanted to do something for me.
For Dave, the contractor, anything less than even, equal, and level is a sore sight to his eyes. He forgot about his son and thought about the shelf – much to his chagrin later.
I was caught between a hurting child and a frustrated husband. All moms know what it’s like to be caught in the middle, trying to find a way to leverage the storm without any damage. Dave could have made something better (of course!), but he had not done it yet, so our son beat him to it.
In time, we talked things out. The shelf was covered with contact paper and put in the corner of my counter top, where it displayed various items of the season. I used it for years! Dave thought others would consider it less than quality work, but that did not matter to me. I didn’t care what others thought when they saw it in my kitchen. My son made this for me, and his first attempt was perfect in my eyes. I was applauding less than perfect, and it was right. It did not take Dave long to recognize what his son accomplished, to give credit for the best attempt our son could do at his age. Dave never complained about the slightly crooked shelf with larger-than-necessary nails sitting on my kitchen counter for years.
When you don’t “do” what your kid does
Our kids are not duplicates of us. They have interests, desires, talents, and abilities that we don’t have. To insist that a child only does things which interests us is unfair and selfish on our part. To refuse to applaud a child for attempting to do something he cannot do as well as we can is wrong. Good parenting means you applaud your child when he does the best he can for his age, his abilities, his know-how, and his experience. Good parenting means you participate in applauding less than your own interests or abilities.
We must not expect our children to enjoy only what we enjoy. As parents, we must encourage and applaud their interests and desires, no matter how different or less-qualified they are. Be a good parent. Applaud less than perfect; remember that is what you are, as well.
Last week we cleaned out a storage building at our place. Dave carried the shelf into the house and said, “Remember this?” Of course I remembered. We both remembered. So many years later, the memory is cherished, and it is good.
And the shelf? It’s been gifted (with its story) to our grown son’s bride – who tells me it will sit on her kitchen counter. I can’t wait to see it nesting there!