By: Amber Leventry
I walk a messy line between allowing my boys to help me with daily tasks and overriding their demands and little toddler screams of, “I do help!” My willingness to embrace their eagerness so they can achieve independence and life-long skills of knowing how to take care of themselves veers in and out of focus when they want to help with everything.
My twin boys are two years old. Their definition of being helpful is my definition of defiance, procrastination, and instinctive rivalry to outdo the other. I’m certain most of their motivation to help me is to exert control. And I know they love the spotlight of a few moments of one-on-one time with me, even if it means their brother is throwing a fit on the floor. One boy’s happiness is a bit psychotic when compared to the agony of his tear-stained, nose-running, red-faced brother.
Seriously, guys, what is so great about helping me put ice into a cup?
Most of their help is not helpful. And I don’t have the patience to entertain their involvement of ALL THE THINGS. Sometimes it’s about time. But really, our days revolve around playdates and story times, so it’s not like we are hard-pressed to be anywhere on a specific schedule. Mostly it’s about sanity. I just want a 60 second task to take 60 seconds. I don’t want it to take three extra minutes to then just turn around and do it again when I have distracted them with a ball or snack.
Here are some of the things we battle over in the “I do help” department—they want to help, I just want to do:
- Remove and clean up details of poopy diapers.
- Tear toilet paper from the roll and wipe my own vagina. I don’t need the remnants of ripped toilet paper shoved at me while I am on the toilet.
- Pick up dog poop.
- To be clear: When it involves diapers, the bathroom, urine, or bowel movements, I’m all set.
- I am also capable of adding ice to a cup or water bottle.
- And I have the skills necessary to fill said cup or bottle with water and then screw on the lid.
- Buckling and unbuckling car seats are jobs for Mama.
- Knowing when to push the button to close the van door is too. The right time is never while half of the family is still trying to exit or enter the vehicle.
- Sweep the kitchen floor. Few things in this house are just for me—leave my broom alone.
- Sunscreen. Diaper cream. Body lotion. I can apply all of these things to my boys’ bodies without squeezing half of the contents onto the floor, getting it in their eyes or liberally slapping it on one small section of their bellies over and over and over again.
- Plugging in or unplugging anything.
- Sitting. Not that I actually sit down often, but when I do, I’d like to do it without a toddler’s body part under me or draped over me.
I rarely need or want my boys’ offers to help. But let’s be honest, they don’t want or need my help either. We have different definitions of what it means to be helpful. I encourage their desire to be independent, confident, and courageous when attempting things like washing their hands, putting on their clothes, or climbing jungle gym equipment. But when they think using all or none of the soap, wearing their shirts with arms in the wrong holes, or falling to paralysis is better than accepting my assistance, I question their ability to make good decisions.
The drama that ensues when I step in to help my boys is the same level of ridiculousness that ensues when I refuse their offers to help me. I would not be doing them any favors by doing everything for them or immediately eliminating their frustration when they attempt to be independent. I want some independence too, though. I love being a mama, but when two extra shadows step all over my ability to turn on a light switch or stir my coffee, I feel a bit dramatic too.
My twins’ help is not helpful, and we are all struggling to agree to disagree.