He came running in from school on Friday, out of breath and talking a mile a minute.
This was not my child.
My child comes home from school and exhales a sigh of relief. Relief to be home. Relief to have some "Alone Time," he calls it, after a day full of people and activity. Relief to be able to just relax.
But not on Friday. On Friday he had something to tell me.
It took awhile; because of his excitement he didn't tell the story in one straight line. He told bits and pieces, revealing more information as I questioned him and as thoughts and details occurred to him. At the end of the breathless release of words from his mouth, this is what I gathered:
Evan and four of his friends are going to perform a play for his class on Monday.
For fun, not for an assignment.
Apparently, Evan had been telling his lunch bunch (a group of kids selected to eat lunch in the classroom as a special Friday reward) about Peppa Pig. [side note: if you guys haven't watched the show on Nick Jr., you might want to. There is no underlying educational value to the program, like a Super Why or Wild Kratts. It's just silly and all three of my kids Laugh Out Loud at the pig family's antics.]
So he was telling his friends about the show, when he started to create his own plot to a Peppa Pig "episode." As the story became more elaborate and more hilarious (by second grader standards), his teacher stepped in: "This sounds like it could be a great play for you all to perform for the rest of the class on Monday."
"So that's why," Evan concluded, as he unpacked his backpack and placed his lunch box on the counter, "I didn't finish my lunch. I was making a Pig Mask! I get to be Peppa!"
Evan. My kid who, as a three-year old, didn't speak or interact with the other children or play centers in his preschool class for the first seven months of the school year. My kid who has come up with coping strategies (which have included "falling asleep," rolling his eyes back in his head, and hiding in his coat or under a table) when attention is drawn to him.
|There's also the Just Act Goofy As Hell routine.|
My kid who, at nearly eight years old, is peeling back the layers of social anxiety, introversion, and fear, to reveal the beauty and the intelligence and the humor that we, his family, have always known was there in his soul.
This isn't the first time he's felt brave. He's stepped out of his comfort zone in the past, whether to try something new (a new food, a new activity, seeking out a new friend). But it doesn't happen often and it comes in fits and spurts. At the first sign of social growth or bravery or new, I've learned to keep a close watch for more. He gets a rush of adrenaline, I think, as he tests his limits. When he sees what he's capable of, he wants to push that line a little more.
Friday was no exception.
He had no sooner completed his I Spearheaded and am Performing in a Play for my Class story, when it was time to go to gymnastics. Evan has been taking gymnastics, off and on, for about three years. He loves it for the Ninja Moves. He loves it as an individual sport. He loves that his teachers allow all of the students to go at their own pace while gently encouraging them to continue to make forward progress. I love it for all the same reasons. I love that I can sit behind the glass partition and watch his strength and confidence (both in his physical abilities and socially) grow. I don't love that he's now doing flips; actual, physical, real-live, up in the air, chin-tucked, body-rolling, mom's-heart-attack-inducing flips on my bed every night before he takes a shower. I don't love it, but I really do.
At the end of his gymnastics class, as the team was seated for their final huddle, I watched as Evan raised his hand and spoke to his teachers. They nodded and he stepped forward. In front of the whole class he, all by himself, performed a perfect, steady tripod. The class clapped as he, slightly taller, it seemed, headed back to the group. I waited for the next child to step forward to perform their favorite gymnastics move, but none did. The class wrapped up and Evan bounded out of the gym, beaming.
As I was tucking him into bed that night, I asked him about it.
"I saw you do a tripod in gym today, bud. It was awesome! I think it was your best yet."
"Yeah, it was."
"Did the teachers ask if anyone had something they wanted to demonstrate, or did you just want to."
"I just wanted to. I'm getting really good at tripods and maybe some of the kids don't know how to do them yet, so I decided to show them."
For some reason, I started to get misty-eyed and was glad that his face was pointed away from mine as I tickled his back.
"Evan, I'm so proud of you. You're so much like me in so many ways, but--"
"How am I like you?" he interrupted.
"Oh gosh, bud: The way you look at the world. The way you interact with your friends. The way you think and think and think and think about something before you do it. The way your voice is sometimes quiet but I know that hard-working brain is loud with thoughts and ideas."
"Oh. But my eyes are like daddy's."
"That's true. But listen: there's one thing about you that is so different than me when I was your age...and even now! You're so brave, buddy. And I love that about you. Did you know that I have never, in my whole life, done a flip? Ever! And it's because I'm too scared to. But you just do it! I love that! I love that you have the confidence and the bravery to do a flip and to demonstrate how to do a tripod to your gymnastics team and to perform a play for your class. I love it and it makes me so proud of you."
"Don't forget the pool this summer," he said after a thoughtful minute.
"What about the pool?"
"This summer, I'm going to jump off the diving board for the first time ever. I might even do a flip!"
And with that, he closed his eyes: imagining, no doubt, his first jump off the board. He'll rehearse it over and over and over in his head and then, on that first trip to the pool this summer, I have no doubt that he'll climb up that ladder and jump off that diving board. Like he's been doing it forever...
It's taken me nearly eight years, but I'm finally getting the hang of this kid. I'm starting to worry less and watch more. He takes his time, but he always gets there. He's following his own path, but he knows the way.