My youngest is 16 months. He walks belly first and hands wide open. His feet are small, but his steps are heavy and sure – even when he toddles. Just watching these creatures learn how to walk has changed my life. Beyond a million lessons in each day, five qualities about this particular age stand out to me about his confidence that I’m committing to give to myself as well.
1. Clap for yourself.
Whether he knows I’m watching or not, or when his big sister and I clap for his accomplishment, his joy erupts in applause. He joins the celebration to his own accomplishment with abandon – and it gives him the energy to go after it again or try something new. I think the secret to his non-stop stamina lies partly in here somewhere: he takes joy in his accomplishments. No apology, no restraint, no heavy criticism.
2. Attempt something a million times. Make them watch every time.
Improvement for his tasks doesn’t come from self-deprecation – it’s not part of his world whatsoever. Improvement comes from doing the task ecstatically over and over, or even using frustration to wrestle with it. Either way, there’s no “heady” attempts at improvement. He just does the thing. And most of the time, he shouts out to me to witness it. MAMA. Demanding someone celebrate with him (see #1) for each attempted turn, tower build, jump, etc. He takes pleasure and gains much from repetition – and he insists the people who love him witness each attempt for continued motivation, having a witness, and knowing he has impact on the world.
3. Take in the world. Name and claim everything that goes by.
Both of my kids could stare out our street-facing window for eternity. At one year old, the developmental infatuation with pointing and naming goes into hyperdrive because we live in the city – there are SO many great things to name. CAR! RUFF-RUFF! TRAAIIINN!!!!! CAR!! CAR!! CAR!! TRAAAIIIN!!………CAR!! It’s incredible. After a session at the window, he’s refreshed – and his brain got healthy exercise. The practice of looking up and out and actively naming what we know can be a key to keeping present, feeling confident in our knowledge of the simple – and maybe even bring us some of that same joy of living with a “wow” mentality.
4. Care more about the problem in front of you than someone else’s opinion about it.
In addition to moments that must be witnessed (#1 & #2), there are times when he gets so focused on solving a puzzle or getting a toy to work, that the rest of the world completely disappears. His brow furrows, he investigates, he tries a million times over, and not once does he wonder about any other child trying the same exercise, or even knows what judgment of failure is, it’s not in his scope of experience. No wonder growth is so rapid at this age. In addition to extra neurons, no time is wasted on wondering about anyone else while problem-solving. It’s about solving the problem. He can still seek affirmation (#1), he can still want witnesses (#2), but opinions and judgement he’s fine forgoing – especially when they’re a distraction to the work at hand.
5. A little danger is a good thing.
As adults, we talk a lot about safe. We’re obsessed with it. But the healthiest safe space is one safest enough for a child to take risks with their attempts, their strength, their knowledge. Today, my one year old stepped up on a box, maybe an inch high, and tried to jump from it. He audibly gasped at the thrill. He did it about twelve more times, made us watch, and clapped along. (Now, when he adeptly climbs a full height chair and stands, you know I’m there to assist – because protection and support is part of making risk-taking possible to continue – this is not a point about negligent parenting.) The rush of the danger in it for him was trying something he had never done before. Not from that specific box, at least. With the adult knowledge of safety, we should be using “safe” not as a means to shut in or prevent development, but – like with our children – create a space for ourselves that’s safe in a healthy way to encourage risks – especially as artists – to find new boxes to jump from, the “can I do it?” thrills, and with it, the opportunities to practice #1-4 every time.
Bonus: Obstacles are just opportunities to move UP.
Both of my children are super climbers. Everything is not only a problem to solve, risk to thrill in, but also a chance to climb upward. I hope I see obstacles like that in my life. As I mentioned in the post from yesterday: ignore your inner critic with all the stillness and confidence of a 1 year old being told “get down from there.”
I’m working on items from my 3 year old…now, SHE. Three is the new adult. There is no stopping three.
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