The Gift of Failure
My oldest son is preparing to take his driver’s license test… again. Yes, he failed the first time around, and yes, he will hate that I'm openly discussing it. A few months ago when he initially took the driver's test, he thought he was ready. As an experienced driver, I knew he wasn’t ready (at that time) to navigate the road independently and safely. As his mother, I was CERTAIN that he wasn’t ready to drive my no-car-payment vehicle around (that’s worth more than gold these days). Anyway, he went ahead, took the driver’s exam, and I put my faith in the unbiased testing system. He failed. Although I agreed with the outcome, a piece of my heart ached for my child. It’s not easy to step aside and watch your kids fail. It goes against every instinct you have as a mother. “Why did I let him fail? With more effort, couldn’t I have better prepared him? Did I do everything on my end?”. I want my kids to win! I want them to win in school, win at sports, win at LIFE.
Now, this kid is my first born, my bright and shining star. He definitely got “first dibs” of the good DNA, and it shows. He rarely fails at anything, often exceeding beyond expectation. Today, he is coming home with a track MVP award for the year! He’s in 11th grade, and this is his first year running track in high school! He’s just a great kid all around, and he sets the bar high for his five brothers to follow. Unfortunately, all of this winning has fostered a sense of cockiness that sometimes interferes with adequate preparation. When you’re always on top, you miss out on the lessons that only a good struggle can teach you. You lack preparation, perseveration, and the ability to rebound.
Oh… but patience, young grasshopper. This driver’s exam humbled my son a bit, and when he failed, he did not drive again for 2 whole months. I was concerned *eye emoji*. I didn’t know if it was shame or embarrassment, but I went against my whole natural disposition and didn’t ask. Although I wanted to help, encourage, and pick him up where he had stumbled hard, I showed restraint. I had to let him work through the process and work through the emotions of a lesson that only failure could teach him.
There’s a parenting book titled: “The Gift of Failure” that reminds parents of necessary lessons learned from failing. The current trend in parenting is all about preventing hardships. We give our kids every opportunity and luxury that money can buy, and wonder why they lack appreciation, work ethic, and a desire to move out. They call it the “Lawnmower Parent”: one who clears the obstacles ahead for the smoothest journey possible. For example, if a child forgets his lunch at home, a Lawnmower Parent will bring the forgotten lunch to the child, no hesitation. The child of a Lawnmower Parent lacks life lessons that only failure instills, such as: humility, courage, ingenuity, and maybe even an autonomous system to never forget a lunch again. On the contrary, the child whose parent continuously “saves” them becomes dependent on the parent.
When my son finally resumed practicing for the driver’s license exam, he had a different attitude. He was humbled. In these last few weeks, he has become a stronger and more focused student driver. As he anticipates his re-test, I know he is ready and better prepared. A few short months ago, he got a reality check that only failure could teach him. Whether you lack preparation or just have a bad day, the odds will not always be in your favor, Son. He needed to learn how to take an “L” (loss) and bounce back, as Big Sean said.
Having a 16-year-old on the road is nerve wrecking. Just when I thought my Muber life was chaotic, it "one upped" me with the stress of having a new teenage driver in the house. Instead of simplifying my situation, it has only further complicated it. With every new milestone I reach in parenting, I learn that the goal isn't to... be ahead of the storm, rather, the most important position is... where the dust settles, for aftermath cleanup.