To celebrate our first day of vacation, Max made a Spring Break Cake. It was a treat.
But equally delicious was a moment with Stella at the playground, just prior to the cutting of the cake.
She had eyed those wobbly steps for months, at various playgrounds, but due to a combination of my own fears and hers, she had never really had a go at them. On this day, her legs seemed to have gotten just long enough, and we were both feeling brave and strong, and so she began to climb. She was unsure at first, trying to get a feel for it, reaching out to me and demanding that I be close by. I didn't hold her, but I coached her now and then, reassuring her, giving suggestions here and there. And so when she arrived at the top, fully powered by her own doing, she smiled a smile more radiant than the sun that had chased the clouds away on this first day of spring break,inspired a cake, and a new way to climb.
I think often of this quote from Ellin Keene:
When we are curious, we are building upon a uniquely human trait– the need to pose questions and seek answers. Curiosity becomes insatiable, seeking to understand becomes intoxicating, and we find the life of the mind deeply pleasurable. We want more.
Ellin Keene, To Understand
Stella wanted more. Around and around she went, taking a moment to shine her gorgeous smile over the playground each time she made it back to the top. Pretty soon she began to teach me with her words, "Pull them together, step up, step over, pull them together, step up..." She was voicing the strategy she'd invented. Now, not only fearless, but expert.
This evening, I stumbled across Susan Engel's latest op-ed piece in the New York Times, "Let Kids Rule the School" and I thought again of Stella and her drive to climb, to master technique, and to share what she'd learned. Susan writes that kids "need to be the authors of their own education." Or is it, perhaps that adults need to remember that they always are? When we stand beside them with a ready hand, they'll get to the top (no need to race) and want to go back for more.