When she got to the top of the stairs, and I kid you not, she thanked me for letting her pull that basket of rags up for me. Well my pleasure!
Recently, more and more, I have been giving Indy tasks and responsibility. Sometimes it's just play that also happens to develop useful skills (like "washing the dishes"), but it is also frequently a genuinely helpful favor (she calls them "favorites," as in, "mommy can I do you a favorite?"). I've written before about how her competence often surprises me. As a freshly three year old she unloaded this clean basket of rags from the dryer and pulled it up the stairs, she carries wet diapers upstairs to the diaper pail, drops them in, and brings the cover back downstairs for me. She routinely gets me fresh diapers and clothes for Tenny, and occasionally helps me clean up toys. These are legitimately useful "favorites," and after she completes them she beams with satisfaction. She even helped me start some seeds the other day, her tiny hand quivering with attempted precision as she dropped them, two at a time, from the quarter teaspoon into the tiny holes in the soil. Okay, I'm bragging on her a little bit, but I am a proud mama.
I think useful work that contributes to family life is so important for children, and yet a seeming rarity in childhood these days. I think people are hesitant because it can be hard to be patient, or because they don't think small (or sometimes older) children are capable or should have to do chores or other "work". If children don't get the opportunity to work at useful tasks, everyone suffers; the family suffers because they don't have the extra set of hands helping out, and the child suffers because they miss out on opportunities to learn good work ethic and gain a positive sense of self. A little patience now, to teach and correct as they learn, pays off in the long run when they are genuinely able and helpful. I promise you're not robbing them of their childhood (if anything is robbing them of their childhood, it's spending 6 or 7 hours in a classroom everyday, but that's a post for another time). The lines between play and work are pretty darn blurred at this age, and I hope to stick my foot in the door while I can. Plus, I've rarely met a 3 year old who didn't want to help in some way. Usually it sounds like nagging to the parent. I'm no expert; I'm still working on positioning myself to teach her how to do things herself rather than just get her out of my hair. It's hard. Personally I really, really struggle with patience, but I can't deny her those beaming moments, and I daresay that if this whole experiment called parenting pays off, I'll be mighty glad in a few years for the precious helping hands.