We are so careful to mark off and record every baby milestone: that first smile, first giggle, first tooth, first step. This all changes as our children reach school age. Not only do we no longer delight in their every achievement, but we often scrutinize our children using grades to rate them. Once we cooed over their misspoken words, delighting in them and writing them in the baby book; but when we have misspelled words, we no longer see it as amusing or noteworthy. Yet, according to Julie Bogart, in her book The Brave Learner, “They’re the same – evidence of delightful risk and growth.”
Bogart reflects upon the practice of celebration. Once a child has accomplished something new it needs to be celebrated and applauded. There needs to be a pause, an acknowledgement that a milestone has been met. She offers an array of suggestions: a hug, a high five, a handwritten card, a photograph, praise in front of another person or a note on the calendar. All of these allow us to reflect and enjoy the moment that our child learns their times tables, or completes the perek of mishnayot or finishes their book. “The best celebrations are felt by the achiever – evidence of having achieved. You get to wear the scarf you knitted, for instance.”
In this week’s parsha of Beshalach the Israelites do exactly this. Once they have crossed the sea after witnessing incredible miracles they sing and dance. They pause and celebrate their crossing. This was a spontaneous outburst, the expression and outpouring of their intense feelings of happiness. Singing and dancing can definitely be added to Bogart’s list, there is nothing quite like a spontaneous musical performance in the house to mark an accomplishment!
Celebration doesn’t always come so naturally or spontaneously though. In fact, even in this case we find Miriam singing and dancing with musical instruments. It seems that when everyone was in a hurry packing their possessions to leave Egypt, Miriam was already planning ahead for those milestones and moments of celebrations. She packed drums and tambourines to ensure that when the time came they would be able to celebrate in style.
However you choose to celebrate, make sure that you do stop and enjoy, not just the ‘big’ or well-known occasions like birthdays, but all the learning milestones that take place along the way as well.