My Godson learned to walk this week!!!
Like anyone who has witnessed this milestone knows, it seemed to have happened overnight and now he can't ever imagine wanting to crawl. He just points his body in a direction and cruises, with a big, drooling smile on his face. Usually heading in the direction of whatever his older sister happens to be enjoying at the time.
He walked later than his sister did, which didn't go unnoticed by his parents. Although they don't consciously compare children, it's hard not to assess one child's milestones as compared to their closest relative.
He is a different child than his older sister. She liked to look at books, drive trains, and make silly faces, he prefers to snuggle in blankets, tend to his dolls and bounce up and down all day long. They both are very social and like to make people laugh. Both love to dance and ask for more food. When she gets hurt, she is silent for a moment, then laughs. When he gets hurt, he throws himself on the ground in misery. Both have incredible receptive language and an eye for mischief. Both I love so, so much!
When I was teaching toddlers, I worked with an incredibly skilled teacher. She was experienced, motivated and simply magical with children. She would take pictures on a digital camera throughout the day and then look through them while the children were taking an afternoon nap. She used them to document the events of the year, showcase development, and improve teaching outcomes.
I will never forget a conversation she had with me over a picture she had taken in our classroom one morning. It was a cold day, and we had set up an indoor climbing structure. She snapped a photo of me with a toddler, in a natural scene, without me knowing.
"What do you see in this picture?" She asked. Such a typical teacher-phrased question, I thought.
"I see me holding the hand of a student who is trying to climb the climbing structure"
She began to tell me, in a sweet, heartfelt way that although I believed I was helping, it wasn't the best way to support a child's growth.
"It's okay for a child to only be able to climb up halfway", she said. "This means that they can do that safely and they know how to get back down. When they are ready, they might climb higher, or in a way that is more creative, but they will do it eventually when it feels safe for them to do so. It is not necessary for every child to reach the top every time. But it is up to us to appreciate how high they are able to climb on their own and celebrate the way they get there."
From then on, I looked at helping children in a whole different way.
Flash forward when I was teaching 4th grade in a high stakes inner-city school. Children were coming to me from various backgrounds of schooling from Latin American countries. They were being expected (by policy makers who do not know them) to be affluent in grade 4 Common Core curriculum.
With every assessment they took, I found myself remembering the conversation with my mentor teacher about how children will climb as high as they can, and it is up to us as teachers to see how they got there and measure their progress as they make it just a bit higher each time.
Life is the same way.
I cannot convince someone to change their mind. I cannot give them a band aid solution and expect success. People can do incredible things by stretching their own comfort zones a little at a time.
Parents, please remember this. Be gentle with yourself. Be supportive with your children. But remember that it is not important that we all make it to the top the first time, but that we got there safely, honestly, independently, with a foundation of loving admiration.