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Coffee Shops, Kids, and Confidence

We had a cozy, welcoming local coffee shop in the little college town we lived in when the kids started arriving.  It was a large two story affair with an outdoor patio. All sorts of different mugs decorated the walls.  You’d pick out a mug, tell the kid tending the counter what you wanted, and they’d make it in your chosen vessel. 
This adorable little hangout is one of the first places the gang learned how to head out on their own to work on things they wanted.

When 8 y.o. No. One was almost three, she, her little brother—still in the wrap, snuggled into my chest—and I would go there.  The place had a water dispenser, one of those ceramic arrangements with a plastic jug sticking inverted out the top of it.  It had a spicket on the bottom with a lever that you pushed down for water.  A stack of paper cups sat next to it so you could have a drink of water along with your coffee.  The kid was fascinated with the thing.  She could reach the cups and she could reach the lever.  She watched people—including me—use it over and over.  One day, she asked if she could go get a drink of water.  That’s kinda where everything started.

The kid grabbed a cup, placed it under the spigot and filled it halfway.  Holding it with two hands as if it was a new treasure she’ discovered, focusing intensely, she made her way back to the table, set her cup down, climbed into her chair, and then?

I’ve never seen anyone enjoy a cup of water so much!  I think she wasn’t just tasting the cool wetness of it, but also the intoxicating flavors of freedom and independence.  From that day on, she could get things for herself.

She and I ran with it.  We found other things for her to do.  When we needed something, I’d ask One to go get it for me.  She’d happily wander off, trundling by all the other customers, around tables, couches, and easy chairs to get napkins or stir sticks, or water, or whatever else we she and I might have wanted in the moment.  If we were out on the patio, the kid was just as happy to force the door open, wander inside away from her brother and I, and bring things back out.  She loved it!  When it came time to clean leave the coffee shop, she was also delighted to put everything away.  The kid’d take the napkins to the recycle bin, and the mugs to the busing tray.  It was another thing she could do.  Each of her sibs did the same things in succession as they got big enough.

One’s little sibs, Two and Three added the variant of throwing napkins at the recycle bin from a distance.  If they made the basket, the were was psyched.  If not, they’d pick up the napkin, move closer, and plop it into the bin’s greedy maw.

The kids are 8, 6, and 4 now, and they’re still doing this kind of stuff, and more.  It was our cozy little coffee shop where they learned how to head out from me, to explore, to look for things, and most of all, the joy of doing things for themselves!  What's your favorite hangout with kids?


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