There is a very fundamental reason, why I chose to write on this topic. As parents we envisage and dream of a lifetime of happiness and success for our children. There is nothing wrong in that at all. We must aim for the stars, and I am all for it. Though when it comes to teaching them the importance and inevitability of encountering the sensitive topic of failure we often brush it aside to discuss later. Unfortunately, due to the manic speed of modern-day existence sometimes, the sun never dawns on this ‘later’ and life comes as a rude shock.
Parenting seems to have been the harbinger of dozens of crossroads, junctions, questions, indecision and dilemmas in our lives. Yes, it does endow upon us the momentous responsibility of shaping the life of a tiny human who is an extension of our own selves. It is of utmost significance to always remind myself that we are the ones handed the gargantuan responsibility of laying the foundation stones upon which the edifice of their life shall stand one day. How tall they stand depends on how strongly we build that base. Yes, with the passage of time there shall come many a person with even more influential power to alter the external facade. But none, can weaken the strength we impart to those foundation stones.
While traversing the path of motherhood I have been consumed with the innate desire of forever wanting to keep my children safe and secure under my wings. The rational side of my brain also knows that they will venture out into the unknown one day. That try as hard as I might, I can’t protect them from every travesty or treason of life.
If you have read some of my other blog posts before, you perhaps know that I am slightly laid-back when it comes to parenting. My children do get time on the iPad and the youngest also sometimes picks food off the floor in direct violation of the five second rule! We are not parents who over-schedule their children with a mind-boggling array of after school activities that leave them reeling with pressure. We choose to give them enough opportunities to enjoy the once in a lifetime carefree feeling of being a child.
This however in no way retracts from the fact that we give due credence to success and achievement in life. But as crucial role models to our children we also alert them to the presence of the beast called ‘failure’ that lurks in the dark and loves to pounce on the unsuspecting. We’d like to teach them, that a failure, a set back or a heart break is no way an aspersion on their own skills and abilities. Rather it is an affirmation of the presence of their skills, which perhaps need some more time to reach culmination and fruition.
As a society, we are always seen celebrating successes, achievements and milestones. The rejections, the failures, road blocks and speed breakers all seem to have been relegated to the back ground. Not completely invisible yet, hidden enough to not be clear.
This post should not be construed in any way to be an attempt to deify or place ‘failure’ on a pedestal. Neither is it something that anyone consciously aspires towards.
The main intent of this post is that, no life journey remains untouched by struggles or failures. Each of us battle our own demons. Our children also need to be taught that failure must not be construed to be a life breaking occurrence which has the power to take away all their happiness. Rather it is a stumbling block. Temporary and momentary in nature. Yes, you might stumble a little, but it cannot force you to fall.
In this world and times of instant gratifications, as people we have become a bit more impatient. We look for instantaneous results. And when that doesn’t happen we look for excuses to deviate from the path. What I would like to teach my children is that a momentary blockade does not make the mountain insurmountable. It requires perseverance, commitment and grit to scale the heights whose dazzle attracts us. And those are qualities I’d like for them to imbibe and inculcate within themselves.
In equal measure it is also true that not all characteristics, life qualities and traits can be strictly quantifiable or measured under the scales of success and failure. My children have always been the ones to welcome new comers into their class. They’ve been the ones to break up fights and stand up for anyone in their class who perhaps may have been bullied. They are also the first ones to volunteer to help in any manner. These are traits and qualities that shall all serve them well in the times to come. These are the attributes that shall help them navigate their way successfully through the twists and travails that we encounter on the journey of life.
As parents and as role models my husband and I have consciously made the decision to never ourselves write or complete the tasks, projects and homework our children bring home from school. Our children have always been encouraged to set high aspirations. And despite, being on hand to help in every way possible we have never let this ‘help’ translate into physically doing their work for them. Most of the times their brilliance has shone through and sometimes they have had to accept defeat.
An instance, that comes to mind in this context is my daughters’ election speech for being selected as a Head Girl.
Whilst I know, many parents who actually took this task upon themselves as a personal agenda and granted to it significance that would put a political election race to shame, we chose to let our daughter pour her own thoughts, agendas, wishes and aspirations into a speech herself. We were on hand to help, advise and revise. But we chose not to write her speech for her.
Sometimes I have also questioned our actions and wondered if we should succumb to the parenting pressures around and bite the bait so tantalizingly set and so materialistically rewarded. I’ve also pondered and speculated on our choices and tried to understand if letting our children do their own work was setting them off on a path of mediocrity and unleashing an attitude of accepting ‘second best’. But unequivocally the answer that resonates back to me from the depths of my soul is that I am teaching them to stand on their own two feet and face life with all the realities that it brings.
My daughter became the Assistant Head Girl instead of being the Head Girl. But her win was her own and the jubilant celebrations that followed at home reflected how proud we are of her.
If it were up to me I’d perhaps give my children every award that their heart desires. But real life does not work that way. We sometimes lose despite having given it our all. Our all, is sometimes not good enough. And this is a fact, that we have to accept. No matter how painful the cost of accepting that reality is and how many tears it requires at its altar as a sacrifice. But the key lesson to learn from this is the truth, that we must give our life goals all our effort and perseverance. There are no short cuts to success. And there is no replacement or alternative to hard work and dedication.
I am insanely proud of our children and the wonderful human beings they shall make one day.
Do I get upset when they hurt? Absolutely. And much more than they shall ever know. For every tear that falls from their eyes a million more tears and waves of pain silently ravage and tear my heart to pieces.
It is relatively easier to write about this on paper. But actual failure brings into its gamut raw nerves, hurt feelings an aching heart and an exponential sense of defeat. A deep chasm or rut which seeks to devour ones heart, mind and soul whilst advocating and propagating the false myth that there is no way out.
In times like these when everything seems to crumble and fall, and words and advice become a catalyst of hurt and grievance, when it feels like no one understands I shall be there to lift them up, to piece the broken pieces of their heart together, to wipe away the tears that fall, to silently walk in step.
And I shall also be the voice that shouts the loudest and cheers them on as they once again place their feet back on the path to, succeed and win!