The Importance of Failure (ESPECIALLY In Front of Your Children)

1R2A1040I often tell people that, as parents, we’re pretty lucky in this day and age. While we have to deal with a lot of new things, I think that we’re lucky enough to live in a time where we are allowed to relate to our kids and they with us. No longer is all music of the devil (a lot of it might be crap but it’s not of the devil) and we’re allowed to be wrong. Kids are encouraged to fail and get back up again and parents are allowed to say that they don’t know the answers to things.

As recent as a generation or two ago, this was not the case. Parents were expected to be super heroes, men weren’t allowed to cry and as far as the kids were concerned, their parents were always right (until they get to that age where they think they know better on everything). Today, though, we get to share in our kids’ love of music. We get to have dance parties in the house listening to songs they choose. We don’t have to be all judgy about it and can enjoy watching them have fun.

In our generation, as great as it was, we didn’t talk about failure much. In fact, in most cases, the only time the subject came up was when it came to grades. We were only allowed to succeed. There really were no other options. And I get it. The world was different a few generations ago and for many, “success” simply meant survival.

These days, we get to tell our kids it’s ok to fail. We encourage failure. What we do not encourage is failure due to laziness. I tell my kids that if you want to know what it means to fail and get back up, to try being a software programmer. I would venture to guess that they fail more times in a day than almost any other profession.

It strikes me, though, that despite all the talk we give our children about it, they don’t really get to see us failing that much (thus setting the example). This past weekend, though, I discovered that I had the “opportunity” to put my money where my mouth was. It wasn’t on purpose.

Have you ever seen a Ripstik? It’s a two-wheeled death board about the length of your average skateboard. The wheels are actually casters an1R2A1041d placed in the center back and center forward of the contraption. It’s made up of a small board in the back and a small board in the front for foot placement and connected by a pole that’s about an inch and a half in diameter just for kicks and to make it look even more death-inducing. Based on my limited knowledge of physics and my observation that people like to do really stupid things, I’m surprised I have not heard more Darwin Award stories involving these things. But I digress. . .

So speaking of Darwin Awards, last week we were in the store buying an inner tube for Eli’s bike. We had a troubled 15-year old child staying with us who went to the store with us and the next thing I knew, he was riding one of these boards around the store like it was old hat. I struck up a deal with him. If he could go the rest of the school year without ending up with disciplinary issues, I’d buy him the board. He agreed to the deal and that was that. Unfortunately, as it turned out, though, he was not long for staying with us. We quickly discovered that the services he needed were beyond what we could provide. There was some drama and yada yada, he is no longer staying with us (at least for now). However, the Ripstik stayed. I am pretty sure it’s the modern-day equivalent of the Ouija Board stories you hear where they burned it and magically, it appeared the next day stories we heard as kids.

This past Sunday, ‘W’ decided that he wanted to figure the thing out. So for the next hour or so, all the kids got in on the action and all the kids fell multiple times on the living room carpet. They decided the carpet was the issue and went out back into the alley. Within a few minutes, I heard about how much easier the thing is to ride on a smooth surface. And after a couple of hours, I had to try (Did I mention Darwin yet?).

The first time I actually did pretty well. I was tentative and careful. I wasn’t so careful to wear a helmet or pads, but careful enough to keep my feet sure and pay attention to what I was doing. Hey! This wasn’t so bad after all! In fact, it was pretty easy.

The second time, however . . . EPIC FAIL! I had gotten cocky. I wanted to go faster. I twisted my feet back and forth. I twisted them too far. The board’s edge hit the pavement, stopped the board and I went flying. Witnesses say that it looked like I did a flip. I don’t remember the flip. What I do remember is that I landed on my hip and that my elbow was bleeding. I also remember my kids laughing hysterically at me and I remember laughing hysterically at myself. I got up, walked off, was told that my elbow was bleeding and retorted with the only thing any good black knight would say, “‘Tis but a flesh wound.” And that was that.

Later, I decided to go look at the alley camera to see if it had caught me. It pans and scans and, unfortunately missed the fall, but got everything leading up to it and caught the lone board shooting into the frame after I tumbled.

Things I noticed on the video:

  1. My bald spot has grown. It may be time to cut my losses (or cut the exact opposite) and beat nature to the rest of the job
  2. We were having fun

And the lessons I took away:

  1. Always wear your helmet and pads when doing things that are especially stupid
  2. People can laugh at you and still care for your well being
  3. (This is the big one). It’s not just important to fail, but it’s important to fail in front of your kids (bonus points if you fail at doing something THEY like). It’s important to fail in epic fashion. And it’s important to show your kids EXACTLY what you do when that happens: Laugh, get up, brush yourself off, learn a lesson or two and be grateful that it’s only a flesh wound.


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