Learning to fail

July 21, 2012

My son, like his mother, is way too hard on himself.  He wants to do everything perfect the very first time.  I am all too familiar with this problem.   

There are so many things I wish I could make him understand. 

But I know he’s going to have to learn it all the same way I did.  He’s going to have to learn to allow himself to fail by… well… failing.  A lot.

If I could, I would make him see how amazing he is, just the way he is. 

He is so ashamed of his artwork because his people only have stick legs and his airplanes look like sausages.

I wish he would look at his artwork the way I do. 

I have a drawing by my desk of myself painting a window.  Every time I look at it, I don’t just see a stick person with a very large, round head, long eyelashes and little swirls for ears. 

I see my little boy watching me paint from the other side of the glass.  I see his face light up with inspiration.  I watch him run away, and return a few seconds later with a blank piece of paper, a pencil, and a smile. 

I see a masterpiece of love and perfect happiness. 

I wish I could explain to him that perfection is found not in pencil strokes but human connections. 

He hasn’t mastered portrait sketches yet.  But he has absolutely mastered my heart.

I wish I could make my beautiful son understand that it is his failures, as well as his successes, that make him who he is. 

It took me so long to realize, after so many years of trying so hard to be perfect, that life is so much sweeter when you stop trying to be something other than your very own fallible self.

I wish I could make him understand that the only way to succeed is to allow yourself to fail over and over again until you finally get it right.

This applies not only to pencil sketches, but relationships, faith, and all things meaningful.

I wish I could make him understand that I love him just as much in failure as I do in success.  Maybe more. 

There are few things that make my heart swell with pride more than watching him trying so hard to attain something important to him. 

I wish I could make him understand that the sweetest victories are those preceded by agonizing failure. 

I am so afraid he will do like I so often did as a child and give up when I couldn’t do things perfectly after a few attempts.

There are so many things I wish I’d soldiered through – piano, skiing, horseback riding and, like my son, art. 

I wish I could make him see the beauty in the attempt. 

I wish I could make him understand that if he’d drawn a detailed, accurate portrait of me painting a window, I’d probably just wish I’d worn a different shirt.

Instead, his cheerful sketch with the lovely eye lashes smiles me through long days at my desk. 

I wish I could make him understand how entirely perfect his drawing is just the way it is.  Just like him.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on July 21, 2012.