The girls wanted oatmeal for breakfast. I grabbed 2 bowls, a green one and a yellow one and set them on the counter. Ellia always has a preference on which color bowl is going to make her food taste better and that morning’s was green.
“I want the green bowl, I want the green bowl!”
She had just asked me the day before what the word “considerate” meant and I had fumbled over my words as usual, trying to think of the best way to explain it to a 4 year old. I think I ended up with something along the lines of “thinking about what other people might like instead of what you want.” She had nodded her head and said ‘okay’ like she got it, but do we ever really know if a 4 year old truly gets a concept?
“Mommy, can I have the green bowllllll?”
I looked at Tessa who was impatiently banging on her tray and couldn’t care less about what color bowl she was about to get since all she wanted was what was inside it, and a thought came to me.
"Why don’t you ask your little sister what color bowl she wants?”
She turned to her sister, “Tessa what color-“
Ellia turned and looked back at me in dismay,
“She said she wants the green bowl.”
“Okay, now you know what your sister wants, you can still pick which bowl you want first” I said.
A little flicker of hope flashed across her face. I’m sure she thought I was going to let Tessa have her way ‘because she’s smaller’ but amazingly the ball was still somehow in her court.
She looked back and forth between the two bowls and then stared at the table for a minute while Tessa banged on her tray impatiently. The struggle in her little mind was very real.
Finally she answered, “the yellow bowl. I’ll take the yellow bowl.”
I almost cried.
She got it. She chose to be considerate. I was totally taken back, I really didn’t think she was going to give up that coveted green bowl. But she did. She chose to give up her own desires for her sister’s.
And I realized in that moment that this is our job as parents.
To provide opportunities for our kids to learn these traits to prepare them for when they step into the scary, harsh world. They are how we can make this broken world a better, less-broken place. And it happens in our own homes with a green bowl and some oatmeal.
And for those of you who are wondering how the story ends, I gave the green bowl to Tessa and then just pulled another green bowl out of the cupboard and rewarded Ellia for being considerate. She was proud of herself and content with the outcome until the next morning when she wanted the purple bowl and so did Tessa. Practice makes perfect, right? ;)