My son is helpful. Well, the oldest one is at least. He loves to clean, straighten, take care of his brother, and generally just pitch in where he is needed. He does this completely on his own... without being told or asked. Occasionally I ask him for his help but that is mostly because I know that he's interested in being a helper. If he says no, it's not a big deal.
He's a helper outside of our home too. Recently I took the children to a nature class at the park near our house. At the end of the class, the students go outside for a bit of a nature walk. Well, Hunter wasn't particularly interested in that... he was tired and also he isn't supposed to be in the sun. So I told him to just stay in the room and I'd be back with the other two kids in a few minutes. When I came back, he had helped set up for the next class, which we also attended. At the end of that class, he helped clean up.
A woman who was there with a child looked at me and said, "I want to take your son home with me. You have trained him well."
I was dumbfounded. Literally muted. I had no response. I just looked at her. I could not believe that someone was trying to give me credit for what he was doing.
His willingness to help has NOTHING to do with me. I have no more trained him than I have trained the other two children and I can assure you that neither of them are as thrilled by the idea of being helpers. Helping, cleaning up, and being useful is part of who he is. Sure, I've encouraged this part of his personality by responding favorably and appreciatively when he's been helpful. But which came first, the chicken or the egg here? See? I didn't create that quality in him... I was just thankful for it when it popped up.
I'm certain that this woman truly meant what she said as a compliment. I was just unable to take it as a compliment towards me, personally. It was a compliment that should have been aimed at him. He would have appreciated hearing her say to him, "I'm really impressed with your willingness to help out." I certainly hope that he didn't hear what she said. How invalidating would it be to hear those words? Can you imagine having friends over for dinner and hearing your guest say to your husband, "Your wife sure can cook! You've trained her well" when in fact, you cooked well long before he was part of your life?
A few days ago, Hunter said that if we go back to that class he would like to go early so that he can help set up for it. Perhaps we will... and maybe that lady will be there and maybe she'll say something to him about his good qualities this time around.
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