Part of the fun of being a parent is that your child is always surprising you. As a case in point, this evening my daughter and I were downstairs having our weekly movie night. This is what we’ve been doing lately on Tuesdays when my husband has his night out. We pop some microwave popcorn and snuggle up on the couch for a movie together. Tonight we had just finished watching Tinkerbell and were putting the movie away. My mostly empty can of soda got tipped over and a few drops of diet chocolate soda got spilled onto the open DVD case. So, thinking more about wanting to wipe the spill up quickly than about who I was speaking to, I asked my not quite three year old daughter if she could go get me a paper towel. Much to my surprise, she said “yes, I can!” and proceeded upstairs to the kitchen.
My mommy brain quickly caught up with the situation and I said “Wait, I’ll help you!” knowing that the paper towels are up on the counter and she isn’t tall enough to reach them. She continued up the stairs saying “No, I don’t need help.” So I followed her into the kitchen and sure enough, she didn’t need help. She pulled over a kitchen chair to the correct counter, climbed up on it, pulled a paper towel off the roll and handed it to me. I had no idea what to say, so I just said “thank you very much!” and went back downstairs with her to wipe up the spill.
I had several simultaneous reactions to this. One was pleasure at my daughter’s problem solving skills and her ability to be helpful. Another reaction was sheer astonishment, since I had no idea that my daughter had worked out how to reach things off the kitchen counters. It’s just absolutely amazing to be able to ask her to complete a complex task, something that required multiple steps and intermediate problem solving, and see her successfully accomplish it. My third reaction was something along the lines of “uh-oh” since the lesson of “climb on a chair to reach it” has wide applicability and there are quite a few things on the counters and other high surfaces that I certainly don’t want her to reach. It seems we’ve reached the stage when education and rules have to start replacing child-proofing strategies for safety. Either that or I need to lock up everything we own, but since I'm sure she'll work out opening locks soon that's probably not the best path.
Mostly, though, I’m pretty delighted. It’s fun to be surprised like this. It’s a pretty amazing feeling watching this small person become more and more skilled and capable. Sometimes I see myself or my husband in what she says and does or the way she approaches things. At other times though I’m left wondering “how did she learn that? Who taught her that?” as she solves a problem in her own unique way. Either way, I’m so proud of her. I can’t wait to see what she does next.