the little things

Coral and I were working on some 4-H paperwork tonight, after I foolishly mentioned tomorrow’s agenda right before bedtime. She was instantly engaged and not to be put off, so I showed her what needed attending and she immediately wanted to begin. Now the majority of it is pretty mundane stuff: writing name, age, address, club, and the like down for official records. It would take me about thirty seconds to fill it out for her and be done. Now for a recently-turned-six-year-old, it’s a pretty monstrous task. It’s also one she’s not about to let me help with. This is where I’ve learned patience is a virtue. She got through name and age on her own, and the address took a bit but wasn’t impossible. Then we hit a snag.

See that line there? It’s kind of small. Our club name is kind of big. It ran through my mind that she’d have a hard time squeezing it in, but I refrained from mentioning it. She got the first part of the club name in there with no problems: “Osceola.” Then she started to realize the dilemma on her own. “Adventurers” is an awfully long word. This is where I could have screwed it up by grabbing her pencil and telling her I’d write the rest.

“I don’t think the rest is going to fit in there…” she reflected as she stared down at the line. I waited a moment before making a suggestion.

“You could always make a line underneath for the second word. There’s space for one.”

She sat thinking and then drew a line under the first, and looked at it for a minute. “Do I have to write the second word on that line? There’s still space on the first one.”

“No,” I answered, “you can keep writing on the first line if you want.”

“If I run out of room I can just write the rest of the letters on this second line.” That settled, she decided to continue writing “Adventurers” on the original line. She got through the first three letters and paused again. “It’s not going to fit but I don’t like the line underneath.”

“What if you made a little line that curved over the top?” She didn’t grasp the concept and handed me the pencil, so I drew it in.

“How will the word go over the line? Can I run the letters up the hill or just stick them on top?”

I replied in an even tone, “Whatever you think looks best.”

She tediously fit the rest of the letters on the segmented line, letter by carefully-placed letter, and finished the word. Then she neatly erased the bit of excess line sticking past the end of the word.

Sitting with her watching her writing out those two words probably took ten minutes. I could have had it down in five seconds and been on to something else. Instead, I let her call the shots. It was her paper, and her very real problem. By sticking with her and making sure I valued what she was doing, and letting her maintain control, she was able to figure out a solution. Instead of dreading writing large words the next time she comes across them, she knows she can work it out and I won’t get frustrated with her questions or how long it’s taking.

Sometimes the little things can be very big.

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