Sofie. A year ago, water poured in her mouth would come dribbling out. Six months ago, she was accepting small sips and then trying to grab and fling the sippy cup. For a two year old who came to the world five months early and still struggles with medical complications, this was huge progress.
Yesterday her mom says, “Sofie, should we show Miss Chelsea how we can drink?” I had been gone for a week at a movement workshop, but I was confused. I knew how she drank. I had been shaping and holding her tiny hands around the sippy cup for a month.
Her mom put the cup in front of her and Sofie picked it up with both hands. She took a big gulp, all by herself, before setting the cup down. I teared up. I looked at Michelle wide-eyed. She was smiling broadly. I looked at Sofie, already on her second sip. We were enjoying this beautiful moment of awe together and we knew it.
Michelle stepped out a moment later to get the laundry, and Sofie continued to sip. She grinned at me before each one as if to say, “This is pretty cool, right? I’m not just making it up?” I answered her in tears, laughter, and cheers: “This is AMAZING! Look at this new shiny toy you have!!” She laughed, yodeled, and yelled in gleeful response. Drinking water was great, having her friend to witness it was great, it was all super great.
As always, she reminds me of a great many truths.
The relationship between teacher and student can be fraught with complexity, but at least one thread should remain intact. There should always, always be a celebration at the point of attainment. The best teachers are never too busy, too self involved, or too enmeshed in a rut to say, “Wow! That’s it! How frickin’ cool!” In the reality of classroom teaching you may only have a moment for this practice, but a moment can be more than enough.
I was and am pretty great at this part. Whether it’s sippy cups or thesis statements, my joy at someone else’s attainment has always been genuine and effusive. I’ve shrugged off large portions of the embarrassment I used to feel for being “too childish,” and I usually ignore those who accuse me of hyperbole.
But, as Sofie reminded me yesterday, I don’t always do this for myself as I learn. I tend to take my learning very seriously, wondering why I can’t go faster instead of stopping to throw myself the party I throw others. And while it’s true that integration and reflection are necessary for mastery, why shouldn’t I also celebrate Sofie style? I still feel the same chaotic, invigorating thrill when I learn something new. But, as the workshop facilitator requested while I shared with the group this weekend, I have learned that I am supposed to “slow it down.”
Thus, here is one part of the conversation about this workshop that I REALLY wanted to have with someone. Trigger warning: for those of you upset by all capital letters, this probably won’t be fun, but read it fast enough and you may get a nice little head buzz:
“OMGEEZUS!!! HOLY CRAP. <jazz hands, karate kick> All these new embodied communication tools are SOOOO FLIPPIN FUN. I can’t even handle it, I can’t even…you know how we did the me and the you and then the WHOLE first two days I was like, NO!!! Me don’t wanna look at you right now, let’s dance side by side, nervous system meltdown…AHHHHHH…and I just protected that space like nobody’s business. <wolf howl, princess twirl> And then Julian and I were talking Monday and I’m usually all…AHHH, ERRR, UMMM, about the subject, but instead I was all BAM, clarity, and he was all, BAMBAM impact, and it was THE FUNEST because then I learned stuff on top of stuff and I LOVE THE CRAP OUT OF THAT HUMAN even when I don’t always like him. Super crazy sauce. And wait <dramatic pause for effect> Monday night at dance I was like, HEY, WHAT’S YOUR STORY ABOUT SOOOOOO MANY THINGS!! It was weird because then there was all kindsa room, VROOM VROOM, about these particular stories, and I was like WOAH…I AM COMMUNICATING THE FUCK OUT OF THIS DAY, and maybe I will only get better. BWAHAHAHA…I AM CHELSEA, COMMUNICATION MASTER!!”
Compare this to: “It was a really powerful experience. I can really see the impact already in the area of communication, integrity, and boundaries.” You’re right, you can’t, because the grown up version is boring.
Don’t get committed by concerned friends and family, but seriously people, celebrate your learning the next time you get the chance. Take your cues from your two year old, your dog, or even nature blooming into Spring. We woke up today when others didn’t. Everything else should seem miraculous as the first days navigating the sippy cup.