When I set out to parent Two Little Ladies, I had this (possibly ridiculous) ideal: I would always take the time to teach them to do things, even if it meant that the task took three (or ten) times longer than it would if I did it myself.
This has been an effective strategy on many fronts. My eight year old can bake bread with very little help. My thirteen year old can care for horses, cows, goats, and poultry with no instruction. Both girls, together, could run this household and farm for a few days if they needed to (and if I'm sick, they do.) They can cook meals, they can clean, and they could even grocery shop if they had a ride to the store.
But I'm not always successful in that endeavor to always have patience in teaching them. The reality of my failure in my attempts was brought about today in a little conversation I had with my girls.
After I'd finished milking the goats, I handed the full pail to The Oldest and told her to take the milk in and strain it while I finished watering and other chores outside. When I got inside, I found Littlest One just finishing pouring the milk through the filter and rinsing the pail and milking cup. I turned to The Oldest.
"Why is your sister straining the milk for you?" (I admit, I was incensed. Littlest One had already taken care of half the barn chores. She'd done her duties for the morning.)
"It's not my fault! She came in, told me I was doing it wrong, and then told me to just go feed the dogs because it was easier if she did it herself!"
To be fair, Littlest One does the majority of the milking chores with me. The Oldest takes care of all the poultry. But there was some truth in that statement: how often do I give the kids other, simpler chores, so that I can take care of things myself when they are "doing it wrong"? Children are impeccably good at emulating their parents, and this was a perfect example of that.
There's so much value in having the patience to muddle through the mundane tasks, to explain over and over and over again how they are done, so that some day, the girls can do them without help. I like to think I'm good about that. But Littlest One's statement today made me realize I better get better at it - the only reason she'd say such a thing is because she's probably heard it herself. I'm sure there are times that shoo them away and take over so that things get done right.
In my attempt to grow character and teach my children life skills this summer, I'm going to take this lesson to heart!