What I Learned from Peter Pan: In Praise of Crowing

photo by David Jones
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, London
photo by David Jones

One of my first heroes was Peter Pan. He was a kid who could go toe to toe with grownups—pirates, even. I liked the way he unabashedly crowed whenever he was pleased with himself, which was most of the time.  He bragged incorrigibly and unapologetically about the smallest achievement. The narrator doesn’t sugarcoat it:

“To put it with brutal frankness,” he says, “There never was a cockier boy.”

I envied Peter’s confidence. It thrilled me when he crowed,

“How clever I am! Oh, the cleverness of me!”

I longed for that kind of self-assurance, let along the audacity to stand on a chair and shout about it—the way Peter did at every opportunity.

A couple weeks ago I got an email from Hattie Fletcher, the managing editor of Creative Nonfiction, to let me know they’d nominated my essay “The Saltwater Twin” for the Pushcart Prize. The Pushcart awards go to “the best of the small presses.” A brief internet search quickly turned up several bloggers who said, essentially, only the hopelessly naïve get excited about a Pushcart nomination, it’s no big deal, thousands of people get nominated.


I’m going to crow about it anyway. Because maybe it’s not a huge deal, but it is encouraging. And that’s something to crow about. Taking pleasure in small victories—however modest they may be—is an antidote to gray winter days and to the inclination to be puritanically hard on oneself. (I’ve heard that can be really awful.) I actually think it’s worth trying to make it a habit: celebrating whenever we can—with a look-ma-no-hands kind of joy—the little successes that happen on even the toughest of days.  (Get out of bed. Woot! Take a shower. How clever I am! Pleasant exchange with cashier at the grocery store. Oh, the cleverness of me!)

With that in mind, this week I’m celebrating:

1. The Pushcart nomination 2. The Best American Nonrequired Reading committee tweeting me that they were reading “The Saltwater Twin” and 3. The very delish recipe for vegan pancakes I found online and cooked for breakfast. And dinner. Twice.

What do you feel like crowing about? (Fantastical plumage, perhaps?)

photo by Marji Beach
photo by Marji Beach

8 thoughts on “What I Learned from Peter Pan: In Praise of Crowing

  1. Love this post. If we don’t crow about our own achievements, who will? Congrats on the nomination! Sounds like a big deal to me. Love, love, love Best American Nonrequired Reading. I think big things are in store for you. And I can say I knew her when.


  2. Dear Maia

    One of these days I hope to discover a remedy for the family’s puritanical obsession with self criticism. Perhaps choosing to crow three times a day for simply getting on with our lives may be a good place  to start. I marvel at how you model endurance through your work and in your person and how much it inspires others. How fortunate we are to find to the contemplative release and personal understanding that may be gained through exercise.




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