For one reason or another, messy food stresses me out.
One of the hardest things for me as the father of a two year-old (pictured above with pancakes and syrup) is to avoid saying, “Here … let me do it.” I’d rather cut her food, squeeze her toothpaste, and lift her up into the car than let her make a mess of things. In the short term, my way is probably cleaner and quicker. But I’m realizing that in the long term, it’s no way to raise a kiddo.
She’ll never grow if I keep saying, “Here … let me do it.” It seems that human beings never get from inexperience to excellence without sticky syrup fingers, spilled juice cups, and slightly askew Dora underwear. I want her to grow, and so I’ve got to get out of the way. And really, she’s just a cute little metaphor.
We all need permission to make a mess, whether we’re learning to use chopsticks, assemble IKEA furniture, or lead a team at work. We also need to look for opportunities to give this permission to others. Again, none of us can get from inexperience to excellence any other way.
Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll put an extra helping of syrup on her plate and let her have at it. Hopefully, by the time she’s eating pancakes in the college cafeteria, she’ll have mastered the technique. But I’m sure I’ll find something else to stress out about.
“What’s that, Elise? You’re trying to choose your major? Here … let me do it.”