I realized the other day that children are basically interns. They share our work space (life) and learn how to do what we do (live) so that they can hit the ground running when it's time to get a real job (life).
Like interns, they learn the most by watching us do our jobs. They see how it's done in real life and learn to apply what they see. Things like "using a fork" come to mind. Like interns, we give them projects as we feel they're ready for them. They pour their own juice, they dress themselves, they make their beds. Little by little, they take over their job responsibilities - which we fine tune as they present finished projects. My son, for instance, often puts his pants on backwards. We're working on that.
In return for putting their own pants on, we give them food, shelter, clothing, and a steady paycheck of unconditional love.
Which is why it's such a drag we can't sometimes fire them.
Because, you see, they don't act like interns. You say, "please put your popsicle stick in the trash" and they look at you blankly. You find the popsicle stick in their underwear drawer. You say, "put your shoes on, it's time to go" and they respond with "why? You're always the last one out." Show me one intern you wouldn't fire for that.
There is no recourse with Human Resources. They stopped taking my calls ages ago.
Why is it so hard for kids to just do what we ask them, already? Don't they see that it is their job? I come home from work and every single thing I do is questioned.
Why do we have to eat that?
How come I have to put my own clothes away?
It's bedtime?!?! I'm not even tired. This isn't fair.
He hit me first.
She hit me first.
Or they don't say anything, but have obviously decided the request to not leave the loaf of bread on the kitchen floor was rhetorical.
It ends up being like that Nike slogan except instead of open roads and a nice typeface, there's twirling eyes and a face the color of the cherry popsicle now melting in my shoe.
Just. Do. It.
With interns, you ask them to do it and they do it. If they don't think they can do it, which is totally fine, they ask for clarification. You set them straight and they do it. Or you fire them. You say, "I'm sorry, this isn't working out. Since you are so good at making all the decisions around here, I think it's time you left and formed your own company. Have a nice afternoon."
With children, when it's time for them to leave and form their own companies, we get all nostalgic for the popsicle sticks and the wrong side around pants. We realize that part of what they were learning was how to make their own decisions. They learned how to ask questions. They developed negotiation skills.
The physical tasks we assign them are a forum for learning bigger skills. The natural consequences they encounter in their childhood workplace carry through to their adult workplace. If, for example, they leave their clean clothes on the floor, there is a possibility the cat will throw up on them.
These are life lessons. Our job is to keep those paychecks of love coming, even when our interns don't seem to want them. Our job is to show them the best things we know, so that they can figure out their own best ways of doing it.
When it comes to kids, the only pink slips should have ruffles. And maybe popsicle stains.