By: Wendy Rhein
When I get home today I fully expect to be missing a glove. A soft, fluffy-lined, warm, black leather glove. Gone.
This morning Nate wanted to scrap the thick frost off the car for me before school. This is one of his many new-found ways to “help” me that is simultaneously endearing and frustrating. He also likes to wash the windows while I pump the gas. (He is too young to pump the gas, I tell him. He has to be able to see the gauges on the pump.) When this new desire to wield the scraper came about a few weeks ago, he asked how I do it. This is a child who knows his mother has a process for almost anything, a way I do it. I explained how I turn the car on first, get the heat going, and then start scraping on the driver’s side backseat, working my way around to finish with the driver’s window so I can hop in when finished. Simple, direct, efficient. Whenever I can, I try to do as much as I can in as few movements and moments possible. Single parents survive this way. Most working parents too.
Ice scraping Nate-style takes 17 minutes. He does not allow me to turn the car on to speed the process along. He starts on the back window, and needed a bit of a lift to reach over the spare tire housing in order to reach the top of the window. He scrapes left to right, or in a square, instead of up and down. I stand guard, following him window by window to be sure he doesn’t slip, offering the occasional suggestion but not directing, as much as it kills me that we are taking so much time for such a mundane task.
Today, Nate forgot his gloves so I loaned him mine. They are big on him but not nearly as big as they were last year. I’m surprised by that, though I shouldn’t be, considering how many pairs of shoes and jeans I’ve had to buy the child in the last 6 months. After the excruciating car scraping process, complete with stripes of frost on the side view mirrors “because it’s cool” we headed off to school and I told Nate to take my gloves with him, knowing his hands would freeze on the playground later. He promised, really promised, he would take special care of them and bring them home. He leapt out of the car, winter coat and drop-eared hat askew, waved goodbye with flapping fingers snug inside my good gloves, and bounded away, looking more like my little one than the growing boy he really is.
I won’t see both of those gloves again, I said to myself. And smiled.
The challenge is in relinquishing control. Letting him help at his ability, at his age, and being proud and patient in the process. He’s just a kid, just 6, and he’s growing so fast, but still full of an impish sense of discovery and play. He can take a grown up chore and turn it into an adventure. He finds joy in his ability to help and do something for me, tasks that make him feel more like a big kid. Man things, he calls them. Yes, sometimes his inefficiencies make me wild-eyed and impatient. If I had done it, we would be done by now. If I had only said no when he asked to help, we would be in a warm car and on our way to school. Quick. Efficient. Boring. With this, like with many of the tasks we pass over to our children, I see a new way isn’t necessarily a bad way. Letting him find his way, his own process and his own pride at a job well done is a small price to pay on a cold Monday morning. And well worth the price of a glove.