In a riff on the famous ‘How Berkeley Can You Be?,’ we ask our alums, staff, family and friends to share the moments that make them stop and think “Wow, that’s so Step One.” This month’s feature offers parents Kemmeo Parr and Jessica Stiles talking about the deep, loving friendship between their children Marcus and Sasha.
Kemmeo Parr’s Perspective:
“Mama, Sasha and I are getting married”. I stared blankly at my 4 year old son. Did Marcus know what “getting married” meant? He told me: he would live at home and he and Sasha would be kitty friends while at Step One School. “I love Sasha, Mama. We are both kitties.”
Marriage, kitties? What did all this mean? Marcus came home with a borrowed pair of Sasha’s leopard leggings—cat legs meant that he could run very fast. I wondered, did they play tag together? Then I noticed that Marcus and Sasha spent a lot of time in character, meowing and stretching.
Soon I saw that their kitty identities went far beyond dress-up or tag. It was how Marcus and Sasha described their bond. I was told that I was not a Cat; I was a Mama human. In time other children were also kitties, but at first they were just “pretending to be kitties.” Being kitties meant that Marcus and Sasha were family—a unit—best friends.
I admired the way that, despite their closeness, Sasha and Marcus maintained their autonomy. Marcus would arrive at school and they would pause to exchange a big hug, then return to their own activities until later. Step One gave their friendship a wonderful scaffolding for creativity, collaboration, and breadth of exploration.
All of their teachers were supportive as their relationship took shape—coaching them on how to express themselves if hugs seemed too tight, reminding them that even if they played with other classmates, they were still friends. Step One taught them (as they learn through song in Room 5) that they have “love like an ocean” in their souls.
Jessica Stiles’ Perspective
During Sasha’s first year at Step One, Aaron had so many good things to say; his only concern was that she hadn’t yet developed a special friend. It was with great joy then, that I began hearing about Marcus, who quickly became her go-to buddy. She’s no longer shy and is considered a good friend to all, but Marcus remains her first, truest friend. Her loyalty to him runs deep.
I see their comfort level with each other in the way he flops a foot over her thigh when they’re watching “Octonauts” on the couch, or the tackle hugs they give each other at the end of the day. When Marcus was out sick for a week, Sasha cried herself to sleep every night, she missed him so much.
When they decided they wanted to have a sleepover but were each afraid to be away from home, Sasha and I both went over to Kemmeo’s and had a mama-kiddo sleepover. Through our little ones, Kemmeo and I have become close friends, often having “playdates” even without the kids present.
Of the many values Step One instills in our kids, being a good friend is arguably the most important. Every day I’m struck by what a joyful place this is, with such a strong sense of community. Learning to have a friend and be a friend in such a meaningful way will have deep value to Sasha and Marcus, well beyond their Step One years.