Saturday, October 27, 2012

it's ok to fail


 I recently overheard someone say that she was "just the right amount of helicopter parent." Oh dear. I edged away from that conversation quickly and suppressed my gag reflex. The very idea of the helicopter parent is odious to me because I feel like it's fundamentally disrespectful of children and childhood. (But this episode of Portlandia is hilarious.)

There seems to be an assumption in helicopter parenting that the process of growing up is something to be constantly monitored and watched, cultivated carefully: add the right amount of water and make sure there's no weeds because you're adding enough Miracle-Gro.

And no, I'm not talking about letting my children grow up feral and untended. There are a lot of risks associated with living a normal, healthy life that could result in broken bones and broken hearts, hurt feelings, flopped exams, burnt almonds (when you are hoping for lightly toasted), books left out in the rain, etc. And hopefully we all get out of childhood and teenage-hood relatively unscathed, alive, and with all of our friends and family. Hopefully no one loses an eye.

So Sylvan wanted to make a fire. I said sure, make sure it's on a rock and have some water nearby. He got the bricks himself and he brought the hose over. I watched him smother a few fires and said nothing. I didn't need to. This wasn't my fire or my process.

He figured it out. And then decided to create a small blacksmithing forge. Something about pounding pennies or can lids. He thought of the safety goggles and oven mitt himself.

It's all about failure. Trying things and being wrong and being OK with that, and being creative enough and flexible enough as a thinker to move on to the next idea. What good is the answer if someone just hands it to you? It's like pie crust in a box.

Jonas is working on his 8th grade project lately. Each 8th grader at Waldorf schools create an original project during the course of their 8th grade year, with a timeline, goals, and a mentor or two. The projects are unbelievably diverse and creative. Jonas is developing a game, one of those crazy complicated games that he loves playing with rules that take all day to even read, those games that take a certain type of brain which I most definitely do not have. Here he is, doing a trial, figuring out the variables of the rules and potential ways they could effect game-play. My brain hurts.
I used to buy pie crust in a box. Ew. Totally gross and full of a chemical flavor that was nasty. And then I decided that it was just something I had to figure out how to do. At first I couldn't have anyone in the same room with me. I had a lot of failures that ended up in the garbage or as free-form, ugly pie crust babies, and I did not want anyone's help or anyone to witness my escalating frustration and sometimes yelling. They left me alone, believe me. 

I hope that I'm just the right amount of "I love you," "I'll be here if you need me," "I'll help you pick up the pieces," and "I'll be cheering for you forever."


  1. Iris, this is such a beautiful post. I feel like it's such a gift to have just the sort of parents that you and my parents and many of our mutal friends strive to be and I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to grow up with such parents. And, I'm so glad that you have been part of my growing up as well! All my love,

  2. Oh, Sophie! Thank you for reading and commenting. I love you so much and hope you know that I will be cheering for you forever.

  3. Please, oh please, can Jonas come over to do some game-testing with Ross? They have the SAME BRAIN. That's Ross's favorite thing to do, whereas I almost fell asleep writing "game-testing......" One time Ross spent days figuring out how to organize two decks of cards so that you could deal a game of "Heel and Toe" and get the best and worst hands ever. It consumed his whole being. I just sat there and watched his gears turn........

    Love the post, and love you, mama!