Celebrating achievements for EVERYONE
By Samantha Taylor
I remember when my son was two… and three… and didn’t speak. We didn’t know what his future would look like – if he’d ever talk, go to public school, or have any friends. We wondered if he’d go to college or live at home forever. It’s that unknown future that lingers in the background of every thought you have. I always wished that I could have a crystal ball, just to give me a glimpse so that I wouldn’t have to worry.
Last week that speechless boy turned 13. He is certainly not without issue, but he’s doing amazingly well. He talks – NON-STOP. He talks so much that when he’s talking to me and I find my thoughts drifting, he calls me on it, and asks me what my favorite part of his story was (cheeky bugger.)
Every achievement, big or small, has always been celebrated. When he learned to say his name properly, around age four, I bought him a cake with his name in huge capital letters on it. When he learned to ride a bike (after years of difficulty) the whole family went out for pizza and then to his favorite Italian ice restaurant. So recently when his math teacher emailed to tell me that she had nominated him for a leadership summit in Washington D.C. because she knew he’d accomplish great things in his life, it shouldn’t be surprising that I stopped on the way home from work to buy a cookie cake.
One problem. We don’t seem to be celebrating our other kids’ victories as enthusiastically. My 10-year-old solemnly reminded me of that shortly after the celebration.
After we ate pizza (my 13-year-old’s favorite food) and polished off the cookie cake, I put my 10-year-old to sleep. “Hey, thanks for being such a good sport celebrating your brother today,” I encouraged him. “The honor he got was pretty cool, and I know that you’ll do all kinds of great things like that when you’re in middle school.”
“I know,” he said. “Last month I got a letter saying that I was selected for that Duke University program, and I could take that hard test – that was a big deal too.”
I felt a pit in my stomach. We hadn’t celebrated his achievement at all. We didn’t ask him what he’d like to do to celebrate (maybe because he usually picks McDonald’s or 7-Eleven.) Why didn’t we celebrate his academic achievement equally? The answer is simple: it’s because I didn’t spend countless hours worrying and crying about his future. I knew HE was going to be OK. His achievements are expected and while he might get a high-five or a thumbs-up, that’s not good enough.
Sorry, buddy. There are some McNuggets or a slurpee in your future, and maybe even a cookie cake. I promise!