Cup of tears: One simple milestone leads to tears of joy.
I was cooking dinner. Isaac was putzing about, pulling assorted cups out of the cupboard, walking them one by one to the family room coffee table to create a colorful, sculptural tableau in sight of the stove.
Suddenly, he nonchalantly grabbed the step stool, pulled it up to the kitchen sink, yet another small cup in hand, and filled it with water. I braced myself, a warning forming on my lips, prepared to see him pour the cup all over the floor or play fireman with the nozzle, but he didn’t. Placidly, as though he’s done it 100o times before, he took a sip. Then another. Then another. Not a single drop dribbled down his chin.
My heart burst, “Isaac, you’re drinking from a cup! Woweee!”
He looked surprised, then smiled his most unbridled smiled at the praise. “Yay!!” he shouted with glee.
Then he quietly stepped down and resumed his cup extravaganza.
Later at dinner, he did it again for a full audience, including Ray and Pierce, and we all hooted and hollered our praise. I burst into tears of joy…and relief, at the latest gentle assurance that Isaac will continue to make headway at his own pace, and that our risk in trusting that is OK. Maybe even better than OK.
Isaac is five, and that was the very first time he took a tidy sip from a regular old cup. He used a bottle for a very long time before graduating to a sippy cup and eventually, a cup with a straw.
My mommy-ego wants so badly to take some credit, to say modestly, “We’ve been working on it for a while…I’m so pleased with his progress.” But the truth is, I have little to do with it.
Ray and I have long abandoned milestone madness, the meticulous and frantic pursuit and documentation of achievement that has overshadowed joy and peace in my own life. We just don’t mark the dates anymore, or read up on motivational strategies, or bully or plead (mostly). It made life exhausting and tense and seemed to saddle the kids with something the tiger mom may one day regret.
We mostly just live and love on both our boys, encourage them and for me, continuously fight the urge to fix or force, often admittedly more fueled by my own feelings of inadequacy or guilt than a desire to advance them on some continuum of performance.
Isaac has provided so many object lessons on the matter of performancism. Lessons which I am reluctantly learning to apply everywhere.
I still don’t know just how to tell the difference between positive encouragement and responsible parental tutelage and destructive, alienating controlling, so out of sync with my boys’ rhythms or my own for motives only God knows for sure. One cue of my misguided manipulation is panicky, clench-toothed insistence, even when accompanied with a smile and warm woos. When I sense that creeping up in me, I sometimes stop and pray. Or just stop. Which is a good place start…or stop.
When I pay attention, I see that God graciously seems to issue ongoing assurances that it’s OK to let go. Like Isaac–of his own accord, on his own clock–moseying up to sink and taking a sip of water from a cup.
A cup of tears.