“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” Henry Ford.
For the last 8 weeks my daughter has been trying to learn a new skill. It is a developmental milestone that almost all children her age have already mastered years before. Through many strategies and joint working with professionals, everyone involved with her has been working on similar goals. We wanted her to succeed. Everyone wants their child to succeed. But at a meeting yesterday it was decided that it would now be in her best interest to stop all the current aims and accept that this particular skill will be worked on another time. It appears on the surface that she has failed. But she hasn’t. Perhaps us as adults failed her by having expectations she could not achieve? Maybe.
But in my family I won’t accept failure.
My son is 5 and has yet to master skills that 12 month old babies can achieve easily. His school is celebrating the fact he can point to something topic related in a book. He gets a star on a chart for turning his head when his name is called or giving brief eye contact. Success for him is taking his own shoes off, or recognising his own photograph. This is just where he is at. Set goals for him that most children his age can do like riding a bike, or writing or reading and he will fail. He can’t even hold a pencil and is only just mastering the basic skill of turning one page at a time. I would never let his school set goals for him that were totally unachievable. Stretch him and push him, yes of course! Set tasks that we know from the outset are way above his ability, no chance! He has to experience success and a belief that he can do things. He may not win any races in sports day this week but that means nothing to me.
In my family I won’t accept failure.
My husband took 8 attempts to pass his drivers test. I failed my final year at university and had to repeat one of my placements. In all my years at school I was never once the top of the class. I was, and still am, dreadful at sports. I was in the bottom class at school for French. In so many ways you could say I have failed. Even this week I received an email from an agent saying that something I submitted to them had not been accepted. I have lost count how many dinners I have burnt over the years. But none of these make someone a failure.
To be a failure you have to stop trying. You have to give up getting back up. You have to no longer learn from your mistakes. You have to accept yourself as a failure instead of seeing failure as part of the rungs of the ladder of success. Failure is letting it define you as a person rather than saying ‘I may not be great at that but I am good at other things.’ Failure is quitting.
And for those reasons I won’t accept failure in my family.
I told my daughters educational establishment that this week. She is 5. You can not ever fail at 5. It doesn’t matter what you can’t do, it matters what you CAN do. So she hasn’t achieved the skill we all wanted her to. But she tried. In fact she tried harder and longer than many of us thought she would. She pushed herself and allowed us to push her beyond her comfort zone. In doing do she gained some independence, some confidence and she learnt that some things are not as scary as you think they are. And these are all things to be rewarded. And I am delighted to say that her nursery agreed and she was awarded a prize this week for trying:
It is unlikely as adults we will get a reward for failing our driving test, or for not reaching that bonus in work, or for struggling to build that flat pack wardrobe. There might be no-one to cheer you on when you appear to fail at work, or in a family situation or in a sports event. You may feel you have failed as a parent because your children are not reaching milestones when others do, or they didn’t do as well in exams as you hoped, or they are living a life that isn’t quite as you planned for them. But in all these, and more, you are learning and others are learning. And the more you fail the closer you are to success.
I refuse to let failure define my children. Childhood is not a competition to see who can always be first to do something or get the highest grades or gain the most trophies. Childhood is a magical time to learn and grow at the pace that suits each child. In going that bit slower my children are learning to appreciate all the little things in life, and so am I. I am learning ways to facilitate them and protect them more. Their trikes have no pedals on them since neither of them can pedal yet. We use large footballs that are easier to catch and kick. We practice letter formation using our fingers with an iPad rather than using a pencil as it is easier just now. We use signs and photographs to communicate when there are no words. Failure gets turned to success at every opportunity. Because self-esteem is something of major importance in my family. Trying counts for everything. It is only if none of us try that we will have failed. Many will tell my children they have failed. But I will never let them believe they are a failure.
Because I won’t accept failure in my family.
And I am proud of my children for trying and taking part even if they never come first.
“Though I have fallen, I will arise” Micah 7:8