by Candice Watters
It was T-minus-30 till our small group would descend on our just-decorated family room for a Christmas party. With only the punch to make, table to set and brownies to bake, cool and cut, I was feeling fairly optimistic about being able to get the final details in place before the first ring of the doorbell. Then those infamous words filled my ears: “Mom, can I help?”
Not one, not two, but all four of our kids, ranging in age from 5-13, wanted to help make the punch. I know how this ends. I’ve been heard in moments of exasperation to announce loudly in the midst of a crazy kitchen, “It’s not helping if you make my work harder! Help is supposed to make things easier for me!”
Still, I was inclined to let them. How much damage could they do pouring bottles of cranberry juice, Sprite, and pineapple juice into the oversized bowl? But our 11-year-old wasn’t so sure. “Mom! He might make a mess!” she protested, looking pointedly at her younger brother. Ah. “How true,” I said. “And so did you! But I let you do it–you made messes–and that’s why you’re a help to me now.”
Do it yourself, or let them help? That’s the perennial question for busy moms whose kids long to jump in with unskilled hands and clumsy feet. It’s so much easier to just do it yourself. It’s faster and more certain it will be done right. Or at least the way you like it. But in always choosing the efficient and effective way, we miss out on some of the most vital windows of instruction. Our kids need to learn. And we need to teach them. Ephesians 6:4 commands us to “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” And Proverbs 1:8-9 exhorts children to hear and hold onto a father’s instruction and a mother’s teaching.
After they’d finished making the punch and I’d sent them to the family room to watch for our company, I was wiping up the inevitable spills made, ironically, by the 11-year-old. It was then that I think I heard the Lord whisper to me, “I’m letting you help me.” The thought struck me hard. “With these children, I’m letting you help! I could have made new people without your help. I could have formed them and raised them to adulthood some other way. But I chose to use you. I invite Moms and Dads to help me with these precious children.” Tears filled my eyes. I make a lot of messes. I’m learning how to raise our kids as I go, with my own unskilled hands and clumsy feet. God is teaching me as I teach them. And the more I lean into the work of it–the messes, the frustrations, the setbacks, and the joys–the more He’s changing me, making me like His Son, fathering me. It’s by design.
When your kids ask you to let them help, err on the side of saying yes. In so doing, you’ll be growing more like your Father.
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