As I scanned the library cart of shiny new books, I noticed it: a brand new copy of “Leo the Late Bloomer” by Robert Kraus. With a wave of childhood nostalgia, I quickly added it to our bag, relishing the idea of sharing it with my kids for the first time.
My daughter picked it out for us to read over breakfast. But when I finished, that warm sentimental feeling I expected was no where to be found.
For those for whom it’s been a while since reading about Leo, here’s the gist of the story. Leo can’t read, write, draw, or eat neatly. His dad worries there’s something wrong with him and watches him closely for a while until mom convinces him to be patient. Then, when dad stops watching and some time passes, Leo blooms — suddenly reading, writing, drawing, and eating neatly. And that’s when Leo finally smiles, too (he’d had a morose frown throughout the rest of the story).
My daughter and I talked it over for a bit.
“…It’s like the author is saying that Leo couldn’t be happy until he could do everything the other kids could do.”
“…It seems like you go from not doing anything to suddenly being able to do everything.”
“…It makes it sound like the only important things are reading, writing, drawing, and eating neatly.”
Then we started talking about other things kids can do that are really important, too. After throwing out a few ideas, we decided to write it down in a list. Here’s what we came up with:
I like her list. To me, these aren’t “consolation prizes” for not being able to read, write, draw, or eat neatly yet. It’s just a wider lens for recognizing what it means to grow up and finding ways to be proud of that growth.
I have a few more conclusions of my own to add:
- It’s not that parents should just stop hovering in order to give kids space to grow; it’s that they should help create a joyous environment for learning and growth and then let kids take it from there.
- It’s not where you are on a trajectory of growth; it’s that you’re on a trajectory of growth — and there are milestones worth celebrating all along that trajectory.
- See this timely picture quote from George Couros’ latest blog post that sums up my last conclusion:
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto