My daughter Patti has been a great helper ever since she was tiny. At three years of age, she would remind me to bring extra diapers for her little sister or to turn out the lights before we left the house. She also scolded me about running the water too long (those pro-environmental messages on Sesame Street didn’t go over her head!).
By the time she was 4, I decided never to be disgruntled about my more-responsible-than-thou toddler. She became my little pad of sticky notes. "Remind me to buy eggs, Patti," I’d say. Sure enough, she’d skip alongside the cart singing out our shopping list. What a great helper!
Sometimes family members and strangers probably wonder who the boss is, but I can take it. When it comes to dealing with the crazy-hazy memory loss that motherhood induces, I’ll welcome any help I can get.
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Having Patti be so responsible is also great because she has to take responsibility for her mistakes, too. Sometimes she is forgetful, like anyone at her ripe old age of 9. She might forget to bring her homework to school or to tell me until the last minute that a major project is due on Monday (argh!).
Or she’ll forget to remind her addle-headed mom about something important. "Mom, you forgot to put my snack in my backpack today!" She has declared upon occasion, walking through the door after school. "I’m sorry honey," I say. "Why didn’t you remind me?" I add with a wink. I usually get a smile back.
Considering her maturity and constant energy, I got her a dog when she turned 9 (OK, he’s for me, too). My husband, who is not anti-dog but anti-work, warned of the added burden the dog would put on me. When I told him I knew Patti would help, he laughed at my naivete.
But I knew he was wrong.
Sure, most kids say they’ll help with a pet and never do, but I knew my Assistant Mom Patti better than that! She would rise to the occasion! She, who tells me every morning, "I’ve already fed the fish, so don’t feed them again, Mom, OK?" could be trusted!
For once, I have no humorous reversal. Two months into dog ownership, believe it or don’t, Patti is still helping with the dog, Q.T. She walks him and helps pick up his "indiscretions" inside and out. She has not been too keen about wrestling away the dried-up, dead toads he’s been finding scattered throughout the yard, however. But I can’t either. I just make sure he doesn’t bring them into the house to share with the cats.
I’ve always known that Patti was a great helper, but on one of the last days of school she outdid even my expectations. A stomach virus hit me just when I was supposed to begin the harried madness that is our morning ritual. As I rolled about clutching my stomach, my husband wandering in circles, arguing with our younger daughter about her wardrobe, Patti made both of their school lunches and took Q.T. out for two walks! She then reported to me how many times he went numbers 1 and 2.
That afternoon, Suzi, 7, demanded to know why I had forgotten her snack. I smiled weakly and said, "It wasn’t me!" Patti got the joke and said proudly to Suzi, like a perfect little mother-in-training, "Why didn’t you remind me?"