Gifting Failure, Presuming Competence

Last week we went up north and I didn’t catch a walleye. I tried really hard. Three times I got up at dawn, once with a paid fishing guide. I rented a good fishing boat with a fish and depth finder (sonar). I bought minnows, leeches, and worms. I tried various live and fake baits. I fished in the deep water. I fished in the shalloA boy in a blue life vest stands on a boat deck, fishingw water. I did not catch any walleye. I barely caught any fish at all (just some rock bass in a jumping frenzy early in the morning). It was very disappointing. 

When not fishing, we went hiking. It used to be that longish walks in the warm weather would exhaust my son quickly. Once I could carry him home, but he’s a solid teen boy now, and that’s just not possible. So when we encountered long walks or trails with steep climbs I’d stop and ask him about it. “That way!” he’s say, pointing us onward, and onward we’d go.  I was worried that we’d fail, but thought it was vital to presume that he’s competent, to allow him to try.

I relate these two anecdotes because I’ve been thinking a lot about how bad I am at allowing my kids to risk failure. In Jessica Lahey’s book, The Gift of Failure, Lahey argues a girl is in a big tree over the water. The light is such that you can hardly see her as she blends into the dark trunkthat kids learn from failure in vital ways. I believe her. I’m bad at it, but trying to improve – letting my daughter roam farther and faster on her bike, letting my son walk and climb until he’s exhausted. I am personally, however, quite good at failing myself, and so drew out my own fishing frustrations as a lesson in trying hard and accepting that you can’t always control outcomes no matter how hard you try.

I’m heading vaguely towards the end of a book project (in that I have four more months of drafting to go) and am beginning to think about the next year. I may get back into writing about parenting again. Consider this an opening salvo.

If you can’t bear to let your kids fail, let yourself fail, then talk about it.


Note: This is also a test to see whether the wordpress/patreon cross-post tool works.

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