Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Let Her Try

A few weeks ago, someone stole a learning moment from Henley. I watched the look on her face and realized this may be the first but it won’t be the last. In a restaurant bathroom, she tried to move a stool under the sink so she could wash her hands. It was all a little clumsy but I was right there and her gears were turning. A woman stepped in. She moved the stool, held Henley, turned on the water, got her a paper towel. All things Henley is capable of doing herself. 

At the end, I asked to Henley, “Do you want to say thank you?”. She did not. (Yes, I believe in manners and teaching gratitude BUT I don’t want her to say things she doesn’t feel.) 

Back at our table I told Quinn the story. While the woman wasn’t helpful, my assumption was she was trying to be. On our way out the door, we walked past the woman and her friends. She loudly remarked, “There’s the little girl I had to help because her mom wouldn’t.” (Inner monologue: “Oh hell, no”.) 

I would do anything for my daughter but I don't do everything for her. I want her to be curious and open to new experiences, so while I stay close - I give her space to try, to fail, and try again. Plus, I want her to feel independent. She is a person after all. 

Why are we so allergic to failure in ourselves and others? While it’s not fun, it makes us resilient, scrappy, and it’s how we learn. It’s also part of the human condition, it bonds us. After all, everyone fails now and then, right? This summer, a New York Times article highlighted a class at Smith College, Failing Well (here). A leadership development specialist, said, “Failure can be an unfamiliar experience. So when it happens, it can be crippling.¹” While I appreciate their efforts, I really hope my daughter doesn’t need a class in college on how to fail. Hopefully, it’s something we can nurture along the way by letting her try, and showing her when we try. 

It'll be an ongoing conversation. Just this morning she spilled cat food on the floor. Disheartened is the best way to describe her reaction. I encouraged her to pick up the cat food and try again. Her emotions were too big for the moment so I asked if I could help. With a tearful cry, she said, “Yeah”. I sat on the floor and helped her pick up the cat food. After we placed each piece in Gemma’s bowl, we hugged. We talked about how these things happen, but it’s okay. Next time, you hold the cup with two hands instead of one. You learn. 

It’s a small moment, but right now that’s what we have. We have these small moments. How we react in them will set the stage for Henley’s relationship with failing. Some moments need patience, some need encouragement, but most just need us to step back and let her try.

1. Bennett, J. (2017, June 24). On Campus, Failure Is on the Syllabus. Retrieved from NYT

No comments :

Post a Comment

Back to Top