On the Virtues of Child Labor

Child Labour: Not Just for the Third World

— Christie Mellor, The Three-Martini Playdate

We had a bit of a breakthrough here on Saturday. I was working on Christmas cards while Girl 1 pestered me to entertain her. I promised to read her a book “as soon as I finish these cards.” Then I had a scathingly brilliant idea: “Here, Girl 1, want to help me seal the envelopes on these Christmas cards?” The result was this:

Score! My envelopes got sealed without my having to lick the icky glue, Girl 1 was entertained in a constructive way, and my choleric Christmas cards got a little personalization after all.

We’ve come a long way. Girl 1 and I attended Montessori parent-toddler classes for not one but two years in a row (because I am a glutton for punishment). Parents were encouraged to let toddlers help around the house setting the table, putting away groceries, cleaning up, sharpening knives, whatever.

This was always a disaster for us. Girl 1 never wanted to participate in a way that was the least bit constructive. For instance, she would insist on drinking water from the measuring cup instead of pouring it into a vase, or dumping dried peas on the floor instead of scooping them into the bowl. The chore would just take me 10x as long and we both would be grumpy at the end.

Since Girl 1 turned three, though, I’ve noticed a marked change. She actually wants to do things the “real” way. She wants to be a help. Her “help” still usually makes the task longer for me, but it gives her a sense of accomplishment and keeps her entertained. That, for Miss High-and-Constant-Maintenance, is huge. Sure enough, Montessori taught that around age 3 children reach a stage of “normalization,” which includes, among other traits, ability for continuous and happy work. Perhaps there is something to this Montessori thing after all.

And one Auntie will soon be receiving this beauty in the mail:

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