A few years ago, thirteen to be exact, I co-taught a year of school to 16 four and five year old pre-kindergarten energy capsules. I loved every second of it—the questions, the emotions, the joy, the innocence and intensity—it fed me in ways I am still discovering all these years later. I guess it comes as no surprise then, that the best compliment I have ever received came from a student that year, his inquisitive face forever emblazoned into my memory, forever smiling as he places a star onto my heart.
It was recess. We were on the playground. Most of the teachers were standing along the perimeter, looking on, while I, this time at least, decided to play with my kids. I can’t remember exactly what I was doing but I am sure it had nothing to do with keeping my clothes clean, my hair coiffed or my voice anywhere near mature. So when I was tapped on the leg by one of my kids, I am sure I expected him to say something else entirely. Maybe something about me playing a different character or moving to a different place where I didn’t take up so much space, or maybe even that it was time for me to leave so they could play alone. I never could have guessed that something entirely different was in store for me.
“Miss Brynne,” he said with big brown eyes as dark as a chocolate cupcake, “I have a question.”
“Ok,” I said, encouraging him, “What is it?”
“Well, I was wondering….are you a kid or a grown up?”
And just like that the best compliment I have ever received, was born. (After I was finished controlling the hilarity practically bursting me wide open, that is.) This four year old’s question became the question that I still measure all my future success upon…am I being a kid or a grown up? And almost every time, only one answer finds it way into my ‘truly successful’ department. Anyone can be a grown up, but not everyone can prolong the joy, the innocence, the magic of childhood.