Shhh…Don’t Tell My Kid I’m Bad At Failing!


woman lying face down on cracked ground Providence moms BlogWe are supposed to teach our kids that failing is how you learn. And I do tell my 8 year old this a lot. He is smart, so school subjects have come easily. Sports don’t always. Games don’t always. Life skills don’t always. And it frustrates him. He likes to try things. And when he doesn’t master something right away, as his mom, it’s my job to tell him that he has to keep trying and he can’t be good at everything (at least not right away, without effort). Here’s the problem. I am a hypocrite.

Luckily, this kid has never asked me about my failures. Oh, don’t be fooled. I’ve had failures. LOTS of them. My law career is non-existent, my marriage fell apart, my house is always a chaotic mess, I have no athletic skill. I peaked…at some point in the past. I was always a good student, and the lesson I got from that was—do not do anything to mess this up. I was THE smart kid. That was what I was known for. If I let anyone know that I didn’t understand something, you’d have thought the end of the world was near.

In high school, students would ask for my rank in addition to theirs. I NEVER asked for my rank. But other students would tell me what it was. When I slipped from #1 to #2, the chatter was deafening to me. Everyone asked me how I was handling it, or what I thought, or advised me not to get mad at the girl who had “beat me” for the #1 spot. (For the record, I was indifferent to being ranked #2.). I wasn’t proud of my rank or my grades. I was expected to get good grades. I was expected to maintain my rank. I also didn’t have to work particularly hard for those good grades. 

I also wanted to try other things but was terrified of being bad at it. If I got this much flack for not being perfect with grades, then how on earth could I try anything else without knowing I’d be good? It didn’t get much better after school. I didn’t strive for competitive jobs. I literally never competed for anything. What if I lost? I’d be humiliated!

There was no one to tell me, “What if, with some effort, you are great?” So I let my inner monologue guide me. Only since having children am I willing to try things. So I ran a marathon (very slowly), I took a pole dancing class (LOTS of bruising and slipping down the pole in the most unsexy way possible), I tried selling Mary Kay (my own failure—not the company), I’ve braided my own hair, tried makeup and fake lashes and a couple others (that mostly turns out well—at least the parts I photograph and post).

I have been terrified to fail. But I’ve failed at failing successfully. So I suppose now, later in life, I’ll keep trying new things and embracing the failures as lessons. And as for my boys: I’ll just keep telling them to keep failing and keep trying. Sometimes you end up happier that way.