It was the kind of task I could sit and shuffle papers and still take quick glances around the room at what the kids were doing. I was inconspicuous enough that the kids coming in quickly forgot I was even there. Today was one of those rare days that I got to SEE my child in action, knowing she didn't KNOW I was watching her. You KNOW?
In came Boo with a quick smile and a wave for me, then straight to her desk to greet some classmates and straight to work on a handwriting sheet that was left there as a self-start. She carefully bent over her work, as she tried to form each cursive letter how she was taught. A few minutes later I glanced again to see her sheet was turned in, and she was reading a book. Morning announcements. Reading time. The kids gathered around to the circle to review new vocabulary and spelling words. Most of them Boo already knew. She'd occasionally raise her hand to volunteer an example of a word, but was careful to give her other classmates a chance to answer.
They were doing a group reading of a play, and the teacher divided the class into two equal groups. They were to assign parts and then read through the play. Only one teacher (who was helping the other group), and I didn't want to abandon my post, so I was curious how the group would do in this collaborative task of assigning parts and taking turns reading. I had my back turned to Boo's group, and was just quietly listening to what took place:
Boo: "Okay, guys. Let's decide who's going to do what. Raise your hand if you want to be the narrorator."
(two hands go up)
Boo: "Okay...two of you want to be the narrator, why don't you do rock, paper, scissors to decide who will be the narrator. Remember, each person can only have one part."
(rock, paper, scissors - winner)
Boo: "________ won, so she's the narrator. Let's write her name down, so we don't forget who is what." (kids all write the name down )
Boo: "Now, who would like to be 'younger brother'?"
And so it went, on down until 12 kids had all been assigned a part. Boo took the leftover part that no one else wanted, and they went around and read the play together as a group.
To say my heart was bursting with pride and joy is an understatement. You know your child, and the way they act at home. You see them at their worst when they are grumpy and tired and hungry and sick. You see them when they struggle to negotiate with a teasing brother and a challenging sister. You see them make thoughtless decisions and poor choices. I often scold. I frequently correct. I often say, "Next time could you please (insert appropriate behavior here)." I am so quick to criticize where she is lacking, but so slow to recognize the countless ways in which she is exceptional.
What a wonderful feeling it is as a mother to quietly watch your child shine...
and shine when they think no one is watching.
As I finished my project and put on my coat to go home, I wondered if Boo KNEW how proud I was of her. I wondered if she knew I NOTICE when she does things wonderfully well. I wondered if she FELT my love and appreciation for the leader and helper she is in our home, as well as at school.
My mom was and is always so good at praising us, and it's not just me. I know for a fact that she does the same thing with each of us kids and grandchildren. When we were young and living at home, I remember often hearing "You are such a great student. You try so hard! Oh, what great work! I'm so proud of you." She showered us with it, and we each responded to her words by rising to them. I still remember feeling my mouth involuntarily turn to a smile, and my heart soar, as I would hear that praise from my mom. Now that I'm grown and older, she still has not ceased to praise her children: "You are wonderful. What a great mother you are. You are doing just the right thing." A little goes a LONG way, as I hang up the phone and try a little harder to BE those things.
After I left Boo's school, Diddles and I went to the store and bought a little box of Boo's favorite cupcakes. I carefully typed out a little note to express how I feel, and put it down in her room for her to find it today after school. I hope she knows that I notice, and appreciate. A little goes a long way.