March 7, 2021

“I did it!” (A Lesson From My Son)

Luis recently spoke his first complete sentence: “I did it!” An exclamation of pride and celebration after he climbed the steps of his (new to him) toy slide.

I was surprised by his first sentence. I was pleased with his persistence in conquering a challenge. But mostly, I was delighted with his delight.

“I did it!”

Three little words of self praise, recognition of a job well done, celebration of an achievement.

When did I stop being like Luis? I’ve wondered many times since. When did I stop celebrating my accomplishments, big or small? When did I start waiting for someone else to tell me, “You did it!” When did I feel the need to hide my efforts under a blanket of modesty?

Babies, I’m learning, find joy in any number of achievements throughout the day. And with good reason—everything is a struggle for them. Every day, new challenges are stacked on top of each other, like the building blocks in my son’s toy basket. Sometimes, they balance perfectly, and sometimes they all come tumbling down on one another.

And yet.

There is my son, joyful, determined, cheering himself on.

Rarely does he cry out in frustration or anger or a sense of injustice for the hardness of it all. He doesn’t look at me opening a jar with ease and lash out, “Why can’t I do that? It’s so unfair!” No. Instead, he watches, he practices, he tries again. And again. Until that joyous moment of victory.

“I did it!” he shouts with glee.

I can learn a lot from watching my son, I’ve realized not for the first time.

While I recognize that as adults our trials and challenges are far more complicated than a child’s, I also believe that our accomplishments of any size should be no less joyful.

And yet.

How often do I scold myself because the length of the to-do list outruns the length of any given day?

Instead of looking at the challenges the day presented, instead of recognizing what I did get done, too often I see only what I didn’t do, or what I didn’t do as well as I should.

Research shows that honest reflection is important to our well-being. Looking back on our day and recognizing our “wins”—however big or small—gives us an important perspective and keeps us from getting bogged down in negativity. It keeps us motivated and productive. Even though this is fairly common knowledge, too many of us—myself especially—act as if modesty requires us to erase our accomplishments.

Watching my son, however, has reminded me that there is no arrogance in honestly proclaiming our victories. He has no sense of superiority or pridefulness when he shouts, “I did it.” He’s simply speaking the truth.

I think I’m going to try to be a little more like him going forward. At the end of the long day, instead of chiding myself for what I didn’t do, I’m going to look at all I did do and celebrate that. I might even quietly proclaim, “I did it!”

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