Wednesday was my Leader Day; I’m still partial to this midweek day, despite its reputation as Hump Day—some obstacle to be gotten over, rather than a good thing in its own right.
On Wednesdays in my childhood, I got to get the mail and unlock the door when we got home from school. Once I was old enough, I also got to ride in the front seat, unchallenged—no small feat in a pack of 7 kids. If the phone rang, those same siblings deferred to me to answer it (remember landlines?). I would set the table for dinner, and ask the blessing before we began eating. The dogs and horses counted on me on Wednesdays to come through with their meals (my brother good-naturedly took my turn when I was running late—thanks, Will).
My mother had a great big bag of tricks for managing the chaos in our house. There’s no doubt that one straightforward benefit of Leader Days was simply to minimize fighting over little things. I would no sooner expect to usurp my sister’s Tuesday shotgun privilege than she would mine on Wednesday—but I’m sure we still argued about who got to take baby brother’s turn.
There was also an element of equality hidden in the Leader Day approach; those of us at the top of the sibling food chain learned to respect and make room for the ones less able to advocate for themselves.
In my (much smaller) household now, there is decidedly less logistical complexity with two children. One’s too small to reach the mailbox or take the lid off the ant-proof cat food bin. They’ve never known a home phone. Car seats ride in the back.
But they are big enough for plenty of things.
My kids alternate Leader Days, and our leader unlocks the door, says the blessing at meals, gets to sit in the front of the bathtub, and turns off the light before bedtime prayers. They get to experience themselves as members of a community, with both rights and responsibilities.
Our little leaders have prayers important enough to bless our family’s meal—prayer is not reserved for a “head of household” but given to all of us. (Although I am really trying to move us along from the ThankyouGodforfoodandfamilyAmen prayer that’s become the go-to.)
Our leader gets to show her courage in turning off the light and feeling her way back to her bed for prayers in the dark. She also gets to decide how big a crack to leave in the door.
Our leader is trusted to unlock the door when we arrive home and place the keys in their basket where we’ll find them next time we need them.
Other leader privileges come up on the fly; the leader that day might get to decide which park to go to, or have the first turn riding “garbage man” style on the grocery buggy (when it’s your Leader Day, you can say cart instead of buggy, but today’s my day to choose). A leader might also get sent to brush teeth first while her sibling gets to keep playing. Them’s the breaks.
One’s ability to lead well is strengthened by an ability to follow. My then-2-year-old used to sing on a continuous loop what she learned in children’s music time at church: “I have doo-side-did to follow Jesus”. No turning back, y’all.
Being a follower of Jesus means learning to practice love in the world, imitating Jesus’s model. In our communities—classroom, household, summer camp cabin, office. At times we will need to declare our opinions, step forward, find ourselves capable and trustworthy. Other times someone else will have the gifts that the circumstances call for, and we will best contribute by honoring their leadership. It bids trust and demonstrates respect. I’ve been taken aback when my kids negotiate for leeway by telling me it’s their Leader Day. It’s tough on the ego to concede a point to a preschooler!
Jesus said, “’Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’” Matthew 19:14
As our little ones learn the stories of Jesus healing, helping, forgiving, teaching, they are discovering the joy of following a loving God who finds them (each of us) worthy of attention. That same God also endows us with gifts and empowers us with the Spirit to impact the world through our own loving actions. We are never too small to make our mark.
Thank God for these little lights, who just may show us the kingdom.
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6