Learning to Let Your Child Fail

http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Gift-of-Failure.jpgThe moment Kaia began dragging herself around the house signaled the start of a two part process: child proofing the house and, even more importantly, finding a happy medium in learning to let your child fail.

The first was relatively easy: locks on virtually every cabinet and drawer and putting padding on the corners of the coffee table corners. As for the latter, I quickly came to the realization the ability of learning to let your child fail is a lifelong endeavour.

And one that probably never actually gets easier.

How can it, when the relatively simple task of biting my tongue each time I see Kaia’s little legs moving much too fast for her upper body proves virtually impossible?

How many times have I already seen this chain of events play out? The unbridled enthusiasm, the uncontrolled scrambling of feet before the inevitable stumble and fall to all fours and the subsequent skinned up knees and, worse still, the flood of tears?

“I told you, you HAVE to slow down, little girl,” I reply with a hug and a kiss on the scuffed up red knee all the while hating myself for resorting to my ‘I-told-you-so’ tone. But I just want her to listen. If only she’d listen, then she’d learn I often find myself rationalizing.

But apparently it doesn’t work this way.

Somewhere along the way I remember hearing how certain Native American Indian tribes taught their children about the danger of fire not with words of warning but by letting the young child venture too close. Close enough to learn the hard way. The painful way.

It struck me a bit extreme then and, today, I still agree. Still, as much as I’d prefer to avoid an emergency room visit to make a point with Kaia, I’m equally determined to find a middle ground that allows Kaia to figure things out and learn for herself. And preferably without any exorbitant medical bills or incriminating looks from the neighbors.

But, it’s not easy. Actually, it’s hard. Damn hard. As a parent, where do you draw the line?

I mean, how high is too high? How, deep is too deep? How far is too far? How fast is too fast?

The truth is there’s not a parent alive that doesn’t yearn to see their child succeed. But that said, what is success without the flipside of failure? Is it possible to recognize one without the other?

I tend to think not. And for that reason, I’ll do my best to sit back and be ready with a band aide and a kiss for the next bloody knee. Or, assuming Kaia pursues athletics compliments of a league that actually sees the value in actually keeping score, with encouraging words after a tough loss. Words that imply coming up short isn’t the end and that success often means simply dusting one’s self off and climbing back in the saddle for another go.

Because as emotionally scarring as many supporters of no score sport leagues may consider competition to be, the truth is, in time, points on a scoreboard will be the least of you or your child’s concerns.

Eventually there will be AP courses to enroll in, SAT scores to achieve, college entrance letters to open, job interviews to prepare for, questionably timed or ill-advised travels to undertake and a million and one other activities that carry with them the element of competition and/or the inherent risk of failure.

All of which pale to the moment that outwardly nice but still ‘inappropriate’ stranger comes home with your child under the enchanted spell of love. What then?

What to say? What not to say? How much? How little?

It’s such a fine, never ending line to walk. A line which separates winning from losing and success from failure. And one I can only hope like hell I’m successful at.

Though, if getting Kaia to use her scooter’s brake is any indication, it’s clear the odds are most definitely stacked against me.

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