education

Why Failure is an Option

Today I sent my child to school with every single answer on her homework incorrect.  Every maternal cell in my body was screaming and longing to fix it, and I tried.  Short of taking the pencil, actually the pen because my daughter found out that some pens come with erasers and has decided that they are essentially the same thing as pencils and debated me for a good two minutes about the practicality of using them, and doing it myself, I tried everything.  I tried argument from authority but apparently her teachers, who she incorrectly remembered, hence the sloppy work, outranked me in authority.  I tried to simply fall back on my authority and make her do it, but who am I to tell the little me I spawned with the same level of stubbornness and attitude I have, what to do.  I even lowered my self to use peer pressure. What will David say when he finds out you got something wrong, because apparently little David is often a little jerk who torments Annie over any grade he beats her in.  So what is a parent to do?

Although it felt like a defeat at first to say fine, hand in this work, as I incorrectly assumed, it did not mean my daughter thought I was an idiot because in the 3 decades I have been alive longer than her, she managed to surpass my math abilities in 6 short, sleepless, stressful, years.  It did not mean I was a lazy mother because I was not willing to hold my position and fight until I finally defeated that ego I worked so hard, maybe a little too hard, to build up.  It did not mean that my authority as a parent has been  successfully challenged and I have retreated like a puppy with her tail between her legs.  It simply meant, I gave her power over her responsibility and (in my super best narrator voice,) “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  She is responsible for the quality of her homework and with that responsibility she will suffer the outcome of a bad grade,  a small dent in her confidence.

We all too often see our children’s failures as the basis for judging our own parenting skills and by this we rob them from having their failures to be the basis on which to seek improvement.  Did I inadvertently set my child up to challenge my intellect by creating an environment where I celebrated all her accomplishments, but blinded her to all the mistakes she made on the journey to make them?  As I ponder this question small incidents start circling my peripheral in a manner similar to Dorothy’s dream where her house and herself are being blown away in a hurricane, and instead of seeing the witch riding on a bicycle, I saw small scenarios such as my daughter having a small self contained fit every time something does not come out perfectly or her starting to look more stressed than excited in dance class because she missed a step or didn’t catch on to the new moves immediately.  This girl doesn’t need help perfecting her homework, she needs help accepting the notion that her mistakes are not terrible misdeeds, but rather a hint from the world what she needs to work on and that her imperfections are what what make her and have made her, strive to become the completely incredible child that she is today.

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