When you think about it, I am a lot like Santa Claus. I live up north with my wife and we have small helpers that are obsessed with toys. But unlike ol’ St. Nick, our helpers do not actually fix things or make them better. Especially the three year old helper. He likes to fix things by making them worse.
If you have a three-year-old then you know what I am talking about. You are engaged in some sort of delicate operation, and along comes your little elf to assist you. “Let me help!” they demand, as they grab, yank, or otherwise destroy whatever it is you were working on. Trying to write invitations to a party? “Let me help!” is shouted, as crayons scribble over everything you had just written. Trying to measure out the precise amount ginger for your gingerbread dough? “Let me help!” you hear as, before you can react, all of the ginger in North America goes into the mix. Trying to write a blog post? “Let me help!” And suddenly the “B” and “N” keys are missing from your keyboard, gibberish has filled the screen, the whole mess has been posted to Facebook and suddenly your computer will only display Japanese characters and the mouse is no longer functional.
On the one hand, it is very difficult to be upset with these little creatures who clearly are trying to support you. Their hearts are pure and good, and with the noblest of intentions they muddle through, only lacking in experience and skill. On the other hand, it is quite easy to be furious with these little monsters who spend their days following you around, tormenting you and thwarting your every move. Frenemy, thy name is preschooler.
If these people were employed at your workplace, they would quickly be fired for gross incompetence and severe misconduct, specifically regarding that time they were in the cafeteria naked and dancing on the tables. Sadly, they are not employees, and are in fact in a sort of a training program run by you and, if you are lucky, a far more patient partner. You cannot dismiss them from the program, and you have to make sure that they are completely trained and competent, even if it takes decades. Not an easy task to be sure, considering that, like cats, they are drawn to whatever is important and immediately prevent you from doing it.
Three-year-olds and cats will both notice you reading a book or a newspaper and, with their lightning-quick reflexes, jump onto it so that you cannot read it anymore. Both animals will try to imbibe whatever beverage you have just retrieved for yourself, and you will not get anywhere with either of them sitting on your lap. Side note: do not try to remove them from said lap unless you want to get clawed. At least with the cat you know it is instinct. I think my three-year-old just claws me for fun. Actually, nevermind, I’m pretty sure my cat just claws me for fun too.
So what can be done? How can you get through life with an overeager helper that fixes everything by making it worse? The answer, of course, is to give them small projects that don’t matter at all. While you attempt to pay the electric bill, tell your small child to gather up all of the stray socks in the living room and put them in the laundry. If there are no stray socks in the living room, so much the better. And yes, you may end up with a living room full of socks, or you may very well find all of your socks removed from their drawers and in the dirty laundry basket, but at least your house will still have power. And socks are easy to put back. Unlike your sanity.