Is it really failure if you learn from it?

I read this blog this morning and it got me thinking.  My children are entirely their own entities with their own strengths and weaknesses.  I started thinking about how they deal with successes and failures and what am I doing as their parent to help them mature and grow in these areas.

My oldest daughter has more brains than brawn.  She has been in a gifted program since Kindergarden.  It’s something she just accepted as something that she does during her day at school.  I’ve never heard her bragging about it or lording it over her brother or friends.  I’m proud that she has dealt with this success as just a way of life – that she doesn’t see this as making her better than anyone else.  

On the other hand she struggles with dealing with anything she sees as failure.  My daughter is anything but graceful.  She runs into walls, trips over air and is generally just a klutz.  It’s hard to watch her deal with her frustration at her physical awkwardness.  I want her to accept who she is – clumsiness and all.  But at the same time I want to help give her the tools and skills to become more graceful.  I’m finding that it’s a fine line.  My husband and I have talked about ballet classes or gymnastics.  While I think those might help her coordination I don’t feel that those are areas in which she will excel.  I know her frustration and how she struggles with it.  My fear is that she wouldn’t experience enough success to offset the struggles.  Certainly I want to stretch her and help her to grow but I want to do it in a setting in which she will see the payoff for her hard work.  So my husband and I continued to discuss and research other opportunities for her.  We found out that the local YMCA has a swim team.  This I think will be an ideal sport for her.  It is a physical activity, it is something she enjoys and it is something that requires coordination and hard work.  And there is no air for her to trip over!

My son is the opposite of my daughter.  He has more brawn than brains.  If you can call his stick arms brawn.  He excels at physical activities.  He learned to swim and ride his bike in the same week.  At 6 years old he is fearlessly riding his bike over jumps and doing wheelies.  He’s still determined to be a professional skateboarder when he grows up.  Does he realize that first he must own and learn to ride a skateboard?!  He’s like his sister in that I haven’t noticed him bragging about his “mad skillz yo!” – although he certainly enjoys the attention when he rides.  I watch him when he fails, when his bike topples over and he tumbles to the ground.  Rarely does he cry and never have I seen him give up.  He watches the bigger boys and listens to their advice and tries again.  Amazing. 

That trait in him that allows him to get up and try again didn’t immediately transfer into his academic life though.  Last year he really struggled with learning to read.  He could sound out the letters but stringing them together into a word befuddled him.  What did he care about reading – he could ride his bike!  There was no desire for him to work at these confusing things called words.  I began to fear that school would always be a struggle for him.  And my worst fear – that he would never enjoy reading.  *gasp*  I didn’t deal well with his failure to catch on to reading.  I wanted him to read and to love it and if he didn’t do it now – he never would.  I eventually learned to back off and let him progress at his own pace.  And it was then that I realized he dealt with this setback just like he did when he fell off of his bike.  He didn’t let it phase him.  He dusted himself off and gave it another go.  He just did it slower.  He wasn’t destined to remain illiterate for life; he just needed to take his time.  Given a choice he will still choose his bike over a book.  I don’t think he will ever devour books with an unsatiable appetite and I’m okay with that now.

I am proud of my children.  I love to watch them glow with pride over their successes.  Though it is painful at times to watch them struggle over their failures I am proud at those moments too.  I know that it is allowing them to fail at times that causes them to stretch and it is what shapes them into who they are now and who they are going to be tomorrow. 


4 responses to “Is it really failure if you learn from it?

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