The Importance of a Leaf

My oldest child is in Kindergarten, and I really like her teacher.  This happened last week.

I took Katie to a math and literacy night at her school. It was good, and she loved being read to in school at night. At one of the tables, the activity was to write your name on, color, and cut out a leaf. I handed Katie a pen and told her to write. “Are you sure you don’t want some help, honey” came a voice. “She’s good, she can write her name by herself.”

Katie colors her leaf and grabs the big scissors off the table and starts cutting. “Sweetie, you should really use the little scissors.” Katie looks at me and looks at the woman “But, the little ones hurt my hand and I…” Her voice trails off and she looks at me. “At home, she uses a grown up pair of kitchen shears – she’s fine.” The woman walks away. A few minutes later she comes back. “You look like you’re struggling. Why don’t you let me do it? I can help.” I step in, again. “She’s fine. It’s her leaf. She will do it on her own.” “But, how are you going to do everything else if she spends her time on this.” “This is her leaf. It’s her project. She’s going to do it on her own because I know she can. I know how to cut out a leaf – I don’t need to practice. I’m assuming you don’t either. It’s hers.”

The woman walks away, comes back. “You’re just working so hard on that leaf. You’re still at it – it’s been a while.” Over the course of the next ten minutes, three people offered to help her.  All of them looked frustrated with my refusal to allow it.  After the third, Katie put the scissors down, looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can do this.  It must be too hard.”  I told her that was fine, she didn’t have to finish it, but no one else would either.  She picked the scissors back up.

Katie cut the whole leaf by herself. Looking around, there were mostly adults cutting these leaves out – even when the child was in 2nd grade. But dammit, my kid did her leaf, on her own, and looked so proud at the end. She held it up to the ‘helper’ and said, “See my leaf! It’s only mine because I did it all by myself. I just took my time and was careful, and it’s MINE only.”

We have to trust that kids have capabilities or risk having them default to adults and never learn the skills needed to be independent. It was little. It was just a leaf coloring page. But, if I take it from her and do it for her, I’ve just taught her that she is unnecessary in her own projects.

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