Friday, September 30, 2011
Learning to Fail
I have an oldest child who hates failure. Hates it. He's not excellent in every area but he tries to be. For instance, one of his buddies is a really fast runner. He beats Isaac nearly every time they race. It's hard for Isaac, but he keeps trying. He is persistent and will still race even though he knows he's not the fastest. This is good and I'm glad that he deals with these situations. But in school, that is where he does excel. School challenges him and fascinates him. And it keeps him on toes as he tries to learn more and more and get better and better at all the different subjects. He aims high and often isn't disappointed.
Although I am glad that he works really hard, it's also important for him to learn that we all make mistakes. We just can't be perfect all the time. Life isn't that way and people aren't build that way. We have to extend grace to ourselves and others.
This is where he struggles. Mostly with himself.
Yesterday he had a very difficult time with a spelling test. The last few weeks he had been getting 100%s on the pre-test which meant he didn't have to take the real test on Friday. He was really happy about that and worked hard at practicing. And these aren't easy words people. They're really hard. Where and were...on the same test! Psalm...island, they, does, brush, and so on. They don't all "follow the rules" as he will inform me, so there is a lot to remember. They're tough!! (We're glad it's tough though because it pushes him and he needs to be challenged!! All kids do!)
He's also still learning the whole process of taking a spelling test. The words aren't repeated at the end and he has to number, as well as write. To a little six-year-old who is still remembering how to write his letters perfectly, it's a lot to get done. So sometimes, it's easy to fall behind and miss a word. It happens at times at home when we practice, and occasionally it happens at school.
Yesterday's test was the review test. So even though he had seen all of the words before, there were 40 of them. That's a lot of remembering and numbering. When he got half way through the test, he had fallen a bit behind and missed a word. Once he did, tears began streaming down his face and he began to panic. Panic. He couldn't miss a word...that meant he wouldn't get 100%! The tears turned into sobs and his very sweet teacher tried to console him that it was just a practice and he'd get another chance the next day. But he couldn't pull it together. He had wanted to get them all right. Since it was the middle of the spelling test and after numerous attempts to get him to dry up his tears, she had to ask him to sit outside in the hall until he could calm down. He did calm down and came back to finish up. At that point though, he had missed quite a few.
When this story was relayed to Steve and me, I was so thankful for it. I know that sounds funny, but I was. First of all, the school Isaac goes to is so excellent so I knew that he was in good hands. I was thankful his teacher was there encouraging Isaac to ask God to help him gain control and praying for him. I was also thankful that he had experienced a failure in an area that he normally excels in. Since he already has that bent toward trying to be "perfect" it's so good for him to see that he's not and that it's okay. We all need grace. That's why Christ came in the first place.
Steve had a good talk with him last night and he re-took the test today. I could tell he was doing better when he climbed in the car and said, "Mom, my spelling test went great. I only missed two."
I want him to aim high because many times, he will succeed. His determination and drive are wonderful character traits to possess. But I also want him to know he will fail. And I want him to learn to walk himself through that whole process even when we're not there. Because like yesterday, we weren't around to coach him. He had to do it himself and so often in his life, he will have to learn to deal with his failures gracefully all on his own.
Often, when I'm thinking about an area that needs work with one of my kids, I'll add on ten to fifteen years and think to myself, "What would this (insert anything) look like at that point in their lives?" And I'm always compelled to be thankful for the lessons they are facing now so that when they are older, they will have at least have experience with those particular hardships, whatever they are.
For Isaac, it's good to learn to fail to see that failure in itself doesn't have to be the end. It's what he does with it that really matters. This situation turned out all right. I'm glad he was able to recover and do much better today.
However, it's not easy for me to see him fail either. As his mama, it's hard to watch!! But, I guess I can say that I'll be thankful when another situation shakes out like this again.
It'll be good for both of us.