We Help Mommy
“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands.” Milton Berle
I was talking with one of my married daughters on the telephone recently. Sophia lives an hour and a half away by country road, by bridge over the Susquehanna, by interstate highway and by tunnel through the city of Baltimore. Dean and I see her family less often than we’d like. But we talk.
At both ends of the telephone there is a cleaning cloth in use in a free hand. How do I know? One morning, Sophia stopped our conversation in mid-flow with, “Wait a minute. What’s he doing?” After this exclamation I heard a laugh. Then she said, “Would you like to know what your little grandson was just doing? You won’t believe it.”
“Oh, I think I might,” I said with a confidence born of experience.
|The back door at Grandma's house|
She told me. “He pushed a chair up to the fish tank, dipped a sponge in the water and was washing the wall with it. It’s a good thing I just changed the water in the tank.”
“He likes to do what he sees Mom doing. You have a cleaning cloth in your hand, don’t you?
“How did you know?”
“Just one of those things,” I said, taking credit for what was really an easy guess. In my long homemaking career it’s been my habit to start dusting the moment I begin a telephone chat. Apparently this trait is being carried through the family tree.
“Don’t you use bibs?” I hazarded when visiting. The words came out of mouth before I could check them when I watched birthday cake crumbs not only fall from the high chair but fly off the tray like sand on a windy beach.
“Bibs don’t do much,” my daughter replied a little dolefully. “And I sweep the floor all day, anyway.”
“No wonder he likes to play with your dust pan and broom,” I said, “and the little broom at my house, too." Then I encouraged her with, “Soon you’ll have helpers.”
There comes a time when a mother does have more than two hands.
To a young child, play and work are one-and-the-same. Eventually children transition into being helpers. They learn to do what they may not always want to do. Picking up after themselves and doing small chores contributes to a child “a sense of belonging” in the family. The feeling of accomplishment and of making a difference is a good feeling. The feeling comes when Mom shows her appreciation. And she sure can use some help around the place.
A mother can do a job better and in less time. There is not doubt about that. But the effort her child puts into a less-than-perfect job at the beginning, during the learning curve, can be acknowledged with a smile, a “thank-you” or “well done” even if crumbs are un-reached behind a table leg, a crayon rolls away and is broken under foot the next day, or a soap bubble or two clings to a rinsed dish in the drain.
“Work of any description adds to one’s happiness.” Grandma Moses
This statement by Grandma Moses seems to be exemplified “in miniature” in two Golden Books of my collection. I had read them aloud often to my young children (ages 2-5). It's the age that children like hearing the same stories again and again. And the tender scenes and words found in these stories were ones I didn’t mind repeating. We Help Mommy by Jean Cushman is based on the author’s experience with her young children at home who spend the day helping her. The Martha and Bobby in the book are the names of her own children.
Illustrator Eloise Wilkin (1904-1987) painted pictures that charm me. By the stroke of her paintbrush she recreates Cute with a capital “C.” But it is also her portrayal of the joys of childhood, a young child’s wonder of nature, security of home, and love of family that attract me. I like her early American décor (her braided rugs, stenciled walls and Windsor chairs) and am swayed by how her characters dress – nice and tidy.
Probably back in the day Eloise Wilkin’s illustrated (the mid-20th century) there was nothing remarkable about how she painted her mothers – that is – wearing skirts – both around the house and outdoors. Evidently to her, trousers were things worn by men.
We Help Mommy is still in print, part of a collection of nine Golden Book favorites in one hardcover: Eloise Wilkin Stories.
We Help Daddy by Mini Stein was another of our oft-read Golden Books. But it is left out of Eloise Wilkin Stories. Perhaps it is the depiction of Daddy with a smoking pipe in his mouth, a pipe appearing in most of the scenes, that made the editors reluctant to include this story in the collection. Although out-of-print, used copies of the book may still be available.
Children will become acquainted with helping out in the kitchen when the natural reward for their work is cookies – a treat. Peeling potatoes is not as glamorous. It isn’t as interesting as cutting cookie shapes. But when mashed potatoes are served on the table at supper, topped with a pat of butter melting on top, it is something to be proud of, too. When a teen, our Yolanda became a mashed potato expert.
A friend of mine would read aloud to her children as they surrounded the bed to fold several piles of clean clothes and towels. The clothes were folded before the chapter ended. Another mother relies on the hands of her big boys to unload the car when she pulls into the driveway with the week’s groceries. I’m certain you can come up with your own list of practical ways a child can be an amiable helper. In families where home life is the center of activity: learning, playing, working, worshiping – this is the surest setting for peace, purity and maturity.
“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” John Ruskin
Discussion is Invited,