Home > Education, Family, Humor, Parenting, Teaching > Just like Mommy taught me!

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.

"Isn't it amazing?!" "Yep, you've got a real Van Gogh on your hands!"

“Isn’t it amazing?!” “Yep, you’ve got a real Van Gogh on your hands!”

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.”

Lady R's dance party!

Lady R’s dance party!

“I already know how,” he grumbled, helping me understand just how much he’s learning from me.

I had two challenges that evening:

  1. Teach Li’l D how to write a capital R
  2. 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.


r step 1


r step 2

“And down” 

r step 3

“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 . . .”

r step 1

“And this . . .”

r step 2

“And this . . .”

r step 3

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.

Isn't it amazing?!

Isn’t it amazing?!

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.

  1. March 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Exactly! There are times I feel like I’m going overboard talking about the new things my son learns, but it is amazing to watch him accomplish something new!

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      I would love to go back in time and explain to my younger self what was really meant by these utterances of wonder, but I’m glad time eventually led me to an answer. Just in time to go through round two with my patient loved ones, ahem. 😀

  2. March 17, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    A kinesthetic learner–that’s probably the least common I would imagine and probably the least well understood and approached by teachers.

    I understand exactly what you mean when you say it’s the transformation you celebrate. My youngest required speech therapy which meant daily ‘homework’ for he and I for almost two years. That sounds simple, but as you know, sometimes toddlers want to do the work, sometimes they don’t. Requires a lot of patience for both the parent and the child. But when they make a tiny improvement–something that would seem trivial to someone else but is monumental to us? That’s pure joy. 🙂

    • March 18, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      At first, we tried getting him to stop moving so much while working. We then realized that the movement was part of his process, and are slowly looking for ways to incorporate motion into work instead of having them somewhat awkwardly coexist. 🙂

      You are so right on the pure joy! I wish I could have understood it before, but it is good to know now–even if it took a lot of awkward pauses to get there. *cough*

  3. March 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    It IS thrilling to see such progress, especially with reading and writing. Although nothing matches the sense of achievement when they poop in the toilet.

    • March 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      It now seems strange that I DIDN’T understand the glory of moving away from diapers! Now, I savor it all, and use the used-to as a reminder how to hear new accomplishments of all manners. Usually works. 😉

  4. March 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I don’t have kids and many of my coworkers do and yes, some of their stories make me react the way your old self did. But it is pretty amazing — the process — the fact that this little person is learning, growing, and you’re helping to shape him. Yeah, I can appreciate that. It is pretty cool 🙂

    • March 18, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      I actually had to seek advice how to respond. I’d stammer out something incomprehensible until, blessedly, my BIL advised me to say, “You must be so proud!” Now I am pleased to be using these words in earnest. 😀

  5. March 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I am now watching my grandchildren make these changes in their lives. It was amazing watching my own children, but watching my grandchildren is awe inspiring. The growth and accomplishments through the generations fills me with joy and a sense of continuing amazement.

    • March 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      This comment is especially awesome to read as I prepare to meet my second child. Seeing Li’l D with his grandma and great grandma fills me with such joy. I love to see knowledge transferred from them to him, and to see in their eyes the wonder of his new discoveries! Thank you for a chance to see a little clearer. 🙂

  6. March 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Yay! I read somewhere that we learn more in our first 5 years than we ever will the rest of our lives, between the whole walking and talking and reading and writing things… it really is awe inspiring!
    I helped Mr. T get prepared for his Mascot tryouts, and I gave him the suggestion to write out his dance routine and what part of the music he wanted it to correspond to, so he could get a feel for it, and practice it in “blocks”. He thought I was nuts, but then did eventually understand and recognize that maybe ol’ mom still had a few good ideas left! Once he admitted it out loud, I think it took me hours to stop smiling! “Just like mom taught me”. Love it!

    • March 18, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      I remember how many times I told my mom she couldn’t possibly know more than me. Remembering that makes it even easier to savor a moment where D actually acknowledges I taught him something. Just seeing those words fills me with delight, still!

  7. March 17, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    That’s great! I totally agree! Because my kids are mine, I invest in them and treasure any accomplishment but why should I assume everyone else wants to be that excited for my kids?! It’s so fun to see our kids grow and learn!

    • March 18, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      I now love to hear other parents talking about their kids’ accomplishments, but try to be mindful of others’ preferences when I begin to share some recent discovery . . . save on the blog, of course, which my non-parent friends can opt into or out of as they see fit!

  8. March 18, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Aw! Well put. I homeschooled my middle child through first and second grade, and although that was a very trying time, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. That “aha” moment when they just “get” something…priceless.

    • March 18, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      It is such a gift! Before, I thought of it as a moment; now, I understand it is an apex. Sure, there will be many, but each is a marvel in its own right.

  9. maurnas
    March 18, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    I’m not having kids, but I try to be polite when my friends act like that. I know it matters to them. And they listen to me talk about diseases or dating or whatever. It’s only fair.

    • March 18, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      In the case of these old exchanges, it was always acquaintances, which was part of my what-do-I-say bafflement. With friends, as you point out, their joy itself is enough to inspire appreciation even if it’s source isn’t completely understood. 🙂

  10. March 18, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I enjoyed reading about Li’l D’s slow progression in accepting help. It’s a reminder to us all that independence and dependence happily coexist within us, taking turns to grow us up.

  11. March 19, 2014 at 4:37 am

    I know just what you mean. I’m so excited by tiny things with my babies (they made a new sound! They went from lying down to sitting!) I try to control myself when I talk to non-parents–but luckily blogging you can write about whatever excites you! 🙂

  12. March 19, 2014 at 5:29 am

    My bff never had children and married when she retired. We were co-workers for 30+ years. Despite our differences, she always met my stories with such joy. (The Fiddler on the Roof song “Do you love me?” comes to mind.) She never forgot a birthday, Christmas, or anniversary. In fact she began a Chantal collection for both girls early on. The girls treasure those pieces because they know it represents years of caring thoughts their way. When something momentous happened in the family, I knew I could call her and be met with an exuberant “Mazel tov!” I love this post, Deb. I could have commented in so many ways, but chose to focus on that one special friend who made the ups and downs so much more special.

  13. March 20, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Us Southern Girls would meet this with, ‘Well Bless Your Heart,” we would mean it. We don’t know what else to say when parents share the accomplishments of their children. 🙂

    Of course, then we suddenly find ourselves parents, grandparents and otherwise happily encumbered and forget our polite disdain. We happily share every squirt in the eye, funky BM and spectacular refrigerator masterpiece; we are utterly blind to our previous snottiness. We join the ranks of parents (grandparents) everywhere, we do.

    We are not strange, not weird. You certainly are not any of these things. Li’l D, he is fortunate in his parents and his extended family who will watch him grow and learn.

  14. March 24, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Wandered over here from Kenneth “The Culture Monk” Justice’s blog.

    I think you’re right– it’s the process that matters. I too wasn’t sure what to say before I had children, although when I did, well, let me put it this way. I tell people that I’m not the parent who says, “Look how smart my kids are… they can do this and this and this!” No, I’m the parent who hangs his head and says, “My kids are too smart for their own good– they are constantly devising new ways to drive me crazy.”

    Disclaimer/disclosure: My son has autism, and I say that none of my little family, including myself, is neurotypical in the broad sense of the word.

  1. October 1, 2014 at 8:40 pm

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