CheetahCountrySurprise There will be mass confusion! … for parents.

CheetahCountrySurprise#3 There will be mass confusion! … for parents. Yes! Every day I try to inspire our partners to remember two things of importance. · First, all kids are capable, creative, and whole-just the way they are! · Second, “don’t steal their practice!” I believe that in life, each day is a gift. It is the chance to improve and discover and find something amazing. It is a chance to help, to build, and inspire. In the short three-hundred sixty minutes each day, a partner’s main role is to ensure all students feel a part of their own story- Their OWN story. So we make a commitment. The partners seem to make it silently. I seem to make it loudly.

We commit that each day we will let students have the practice, for they are the expert on them.

This sounds so odd. Even as I write it, the mother in me feels a bit anxious. It seems to go against what we feel as parents believe is our role. I often feel as if I should step in and make sure everything goes smoothly. I have learned that really is not my role and while I would like to think I have that much power- I don’t.


I want every day to be the practice, so on some days, when the stakes are a bit higher, when it matters in front of others, or on a test or for the student’s own paced satisfaction it can be the tournament or the championship. There may be some trials along the way, and that is OK, so long as they feel like a scrimmage or an intramural game. For if EVERY single day felt like a tournament- what pressure that is! If your child was in a traditional setting before attending here you know what I am referring to- the stress that robbed you of the smiling, happy, person you know your child to be. That is what happens when our children feel every day is tournament day- that if they fail, they are a failure.

So if we want to ensure this does not happen, your child has to feel a more positive form of that pressure-They need productive struggle, good pressure- they need to be the decision-maker. Ah yes, this is where the confusion comes in- for you, for us-the parents.

I can see you reading this, rolling your eyes, but that is where the confusion lies.

I know something about every kid who comes here- because this truth is true of all kids, regardless of their shared or unique experiences:

Fact #1: Your child is not the best communicator- WITH YOU, and now they are a main decision-maker, and what you once felt control over, you now realize your child controls. You cannot be there when they make a decision in silence to skip math today or not edit the sentence or submit a quest incomplete to buy some time.

Fact #2: We are not in control as parents.

When that happens we feel confused. Often times it feels a bit painful.

So each day we commit to number 2- don’t steal their practice because we believe in number one-all children of any age are creative, capable, and whole. This means the partners ready themselves for quite a bit of confusion, disappointment, failure, crying, and of course a bit of suffering each day. We know when we as partners, say yes to these principles, we are welcoming a cacophony of sounds-mostly from parents, about how their child is progressing.

Don’t you see how hard it is?
It is easy for us to notify you, email, call and explain all the little pieces that occurred. It is easier to make everything easy, spell it all out. It is easier for us grown ups to tell every kid what to do, at the exact time, and if they do not comply-punish them. It is easier to have everything ready- every pencil, website up on the computer, how to spend their time, what to turn in first, second and third. We could tell them how to do every problem, in what order. We can make all the decisions. We can even tell them to stop talking to their friends while they work. We could ask them to be quiet.
Sure- that would be easier. It would be orderly. It would be quieter. There is sure to be every parent informed. It would look like a classroom looks, operates, functions. But, that does not build character, time management, or relationships or a whole lot of other stuff. (yes, “stuff”, the clinical term for all the skills we want our children to grow)

If I believe each person is creative and capable and not broken (whole), then I firmly believe each person can solve any problem that comes his way. He may need to ask for help, use a resource, or do none of those things. I don’t know the plan. I am on the dance floor, waiting to hear the music. I don’t know the dance steps because I cannot hear the beat yet. The kid is spinning the records. Your child is the DJ. Thank goodness we don’t decide for them. Like solving problem, their problems: The problem belongs to someone else. If I solve it, the person will not get the practice they need to solve bigger problems, cooler problems, life’s problems.

When Gianna was eight she needed to complete a swim test for an upcoming girl scout swimming event. If a child could not pass the test, he or she could only swim in the shallow end. Since the event was multi-age, it became clear as the test day came closer that the “younger” kids only swam in the shallow end. Gianna was a great swimmer- not such a great test taker. Her anxiety always got the best of her, and days before the test I began to worry she would not be able to show off her swimming enough to pass to get the black band to swim anywhere in the pool. I wanted to ask her about the test, kind of prep her in advance-but she seemed oblivious to what was at stake: visions of her friends swimming everywhere and her alone in the shallow end with a bunch of kinders were floating in my head. I kept quiet.

On test day we arrived and looking at her, I saw she was scared. There were so many children all over the place. A young high school boy approached us, took our ticket and explained the expectations to Gianna. “You can take it as many times as you want if you fail”. That was a great start, I said to myself sarcastically in my head- who does that-tells a kid they might fail. Gianna jumped in swam to the end, tried to tread water the amount of time he said, then swam back, and climbed out of the pool by the side as he had explained. FAIL. “Not this time”, he said, offering her the yellow shallow end bracelet.

He didn’t remind her she could do it again. He just offered her the bracelet. I wanted to run over and remind her. Heck, I wanted to swim for her! She could do this, she was just nervous. I wanted to ask him WHY she had failed the test, so I could retell her in my words, motivate her, and she could do it again. But also, the mother in me was searching the sea of her friends, trying to figure out who had a yellow bracelet.


Relief came over me, and as I went up to walk her over, she threw down her towel and stomped her foot. “I am doing it again, what do you want me to do? She demanded of him. He said, “okay well get in, Rachel is going to do your test.”. Gianna swam, swam, tread water, climbed, Failed.

Dying from the sidelines, I began to feel myself become tied to the outcome. I wanted her to get that black band. But I wanted to save her too. She looked crushed and heart broken. I started to go over there. I was going to fix this. She did not need to suffer.

To my surprise, I heard her turn back, and say “I am doing it again”, jumping back into the pool.

Again, she went -again she failed. I was dying. Truly dying. If someone had told me motherhood was this painful, I would not have believed them. I started to run over this time.

“I am doing it again” she said. This time she was crying and heaving and looking broken. Wiping her face. She became red faced and angry. She walked back over to the testing area.

I was broken already on the sidelines. I started down a mental path that led no where.

Why was she doing this? Filled with confusion, I looked over at the table of other kids again-her friends all had yellow bands. There was no reason to try again, she had suffered enough!

Then she jumped in the for the fourth time. She asked a lot of questions as she looked up from the edge at a girl just like Rachel. She was off, swimming, and treading, and I thought I might black out. She climbed out. She turned around to the girl and in her hand was the black band. “That’s it, your whole face in the water-you got it!”

Never had I seen her beam so brightly. Her smile stretched across her face. Her friends clapped.

In running over, she said. “I got the black band. I got it. It was so hard, but I got it.”

I realized then, and I make it now a point to remember, that I did not know best-she knew best. She knew her limits, she knew what she wanted. I was wrong to think she had suffered enough. She was not suffering; she was doing something else. She was learning!

It was painful for me. I was confused, and uncomfortable while she practiced building GRIT. She was too, but the reward was that the whole thing was hers and when she got it- the success was hers too.

So I try now to let go and allow myself to be her standing post not her net. I wait, tall and proud and watch and bask in the glow of failure and success and know all the while it belongs to her.

She is creative, capable and whole. I will not steal her practice. Amazing things come when we let go and live a little in the confusion. But we are not alone. They will not be alone either. Together, we can do hard things.


Thank you to Ben's mom who sent in a great quote the other day that she read somewhere- she said it reminded her of us and how we approach building the whole kid...

“If a child can do advanced math, speak 3 languages or receive top grades, but cannot manage their emotions, practice conflict resolution, persevere, or handle stress, none of that other stuff is going to matter.”