Just like Mommy taught me!
Long before my son was born, I occasionally crossed paths with childrened people. They were a strange lot to me, with one particularly peculiar habit: sharing their kids’ newest accomplishments. To my non-parent ears, these accomplishments were pretty unremarkable.
- Oh, your kid can smile now? You must be so proud.
- Your kid’s pooping in a toilet now? That’s . . . wow. I can’t imagine your sense of achievement.
- Your kid knows the alphabet now? Better sign him up for med school, pronto!
The end results these parents shared hardly seemed noteworthy to me. So why, I wondered, were they spoken of with such pride?
My conclusion then: Parents are weird.
A couple of weeks ago, I had to help my four-year-old son with his capital “R.”
“It looks like a lady’s dress,” I told Li’l D. “Let me show you the right way to write it.”
“I already know how,” he grumbled, helping me understand just how much he’s learning from me.
I had two challenges that evening:
- Teach Li’l D how to write a capital R
- Help him be willing to learn how
The “willingness” part was far rougher. We had to talk for several minutes before he conceded I might have some new knowledge to share with him. Once he accepted that, I took his hand in my own and helped him–my kinesthetic learner–feel the flow of the letter.
“Repeat for the next one!”
He was quickly writing his own recognizable Rs. I basked in the goodness of the knowledge acquisition I’d just witnessed, but even more so the fact we’d finished up the week’s homework. Hurrah!
Last week, his dad suggested he write his first name and last initial on his homework. I stopped what I was doing and turned my attention toward my son. What would he write? Would it be a proper capital R, or another dress awaiting its lady?
As I watched, he selected a spot halfway down the page and narrated his writing.
“Like this . . .”
“And this . . .”
“And this . . .”
My heart was already soaring when he concluded the thought, “. . . just like Mommy taught me!”
Is the end result–a single capital R–that remarkable? I couldn’t say, because as a parent, what I celebrate is not the end result but the transformation. The tiny lad I brought home four years ago couldn’t even lift his neck; now, his much less tiny self can dance, and sing, and make things, as well as draw an occasional perfect capital R. The accomplishments are his, but I can’t help sharing the joy of them.
Each day, my son learns a little more, some of which is thanks to me. Day by exhausting, exhilarating day, I’m helping another person learn to navigate new-to-him parts of the world, from writing letters to accepting help.
I’m watching the blooming of a tiny, frail seed into a glorious, sturdy tree. I’m savoring the before, during and after. It’s all a gift to me.
When I say, “Isn’t it amazing?!” I don’t mean the R is amazing. It’s what it reflects that’s amazing: the process. The growth.
My old self would have looked at this R with raised eyebrow and said, “You must be so proud.”
Parent-me, faced with such a statement, would smile and say, “Not proud, exactly, but thrilled!” For, though such thrills will unlikely ever be central to any action movie, it is thrilling to watch my son learn, and to see shone clearly–once in a while–my own role in that remarkable process.