image by sarah mccoy photo

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Failing Successfully: Part 2 of 4

Cute Little Failures

I am very fond of my kids.  I want them to avoid mistakes and pains and yes, failures.  I want them to avoid wearing hammer pants and side ponytails or whatever hideous fads crop up in their youth, and I want them to choose good friends and I want them to never smoke.  I also want them to be girls who think of others first, fear God, and act with integrity.  And I think the best way to sabotage these character goals is to cushion them from all the bad stuff in life. 

If failure builds character in you and me, imagine how crucial it is in our kids’ formative years.  We can let them quit soccer because their coach plays favorites.  We can finish their papers for them because they need that A to get into Stanford and become really, really rich and happy.  We can fight their battles and give everyone a participation trophy and coddle their fragile egos.  And…we can create a fear of failure at best, a bubble of Unreality at worst, by shielding our kids from the opportunity to fail, to compete, to lose.

Parenting, I think, is less about making the world sparkly and pretty for our kids, and more about providing a secure place for them to land when they fall.  Songbird tried monkey bars this week for the first time.  When she couldn’t hold herself up, she said, “Mom, I tried to be a big girl but I couldn’t!”  Which was an interesting way to generalize such a minor failure.  I don’t think her little psyche suffered greatly; she wants to try again next week. 

If we teach and train and guide our kids, they will still occasionally mess up, fall off the monkey bars.  And when they do, and we still love and teach through the failures, we show them a picture of what Jesus does for us.  When we coddle and cushion, I’m not sure what picture that paints, but I don’t think it’s Jesus-y.  

When I was in high school, my mom used to ask, “Why do you put so much effort into basketball when you’re much better at tennis?”  Four knee surgeries later, after I’d ruined any tennis possibilities with my basketball injuries, I saw her point.  She made me go to one tennis camp for every basketball camp I chose.  She never told me I was great unless I really was.  And though I was no nationally ranked player then or now, and have hideous knee scars, I’m ok with that.  Childhood is not about crafting a perfect adulthood so much as crafting an adult, even a scarred, unranked one. 

If I develop anything in my kids, I hope it’s not a sense that I will break rules for them, that they are the center of the universe, or that their Class-A bilingual preschool defines them.  I hope instead to develop in them a work ethic, a sense of empathy, the ability to fail graciously.  Humility, even.  I hope they learn the joy of earned success, even if it’s first through earned failure.  If they never master the monkey bars, I hope they still become Big Girls.  And if they end up really good people with really mediocre resumes, I’ll be ok with that, too.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post, especially the preschool line, it made me chuckle out loud!