Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Reflections on Diversity and When Does Letting Your Child Fail Help Them Learn to Succeed
One Thursday evening this fall, I was wrapping up my evening of catching up on work after the kids were asleep. I saw the schedule of events from my second son’s school. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. I saw in black and white -- the deadline to enter the art contest called Reflections was the next day. Normally, I hound him for weeks to complete his entry. This year, it had slipped my mind except a mention a week before. I was busy with work and trying to pull off my first charity auction. I felt the nausea of working mom guilt creeping in .. but my mind rebelled, “It was not too late!”
I circled the deadline and put it on the kitchen counter. My hope was he had prepared something and just needed a reminder to bring to school – I knew it was a long shot but maybe. I came down in the morning and he was printing something off. I felt a weight lift . . .until I looked at the paper. It had weird lines running across it. But worse, I could see clearly he had just thrown some words on top of a background this morning. The nauseous feeling from the evening before returned with a vengeance.
Still not willing to admit defeat, I told him I would send a frame with him. He could work on it during the day and hand it in before the end of the day. He usually has no problem writing poetry so I was still hopeful. The theme was diversity. We talked a bit as he got ready about how that applied in our lives. We discussed that his dad is from Greece, my parents are from Holland and Indonesia and his sister is from Ethiopia. And we all have diverse interests and talents.
He rode his bike off to school and I crossed my fingers. After he left, I thought could help him a bit more. I collected some pictures of our family and different trips we had taken I thought might provide him some inspiration. I dropped them off at this school. I was rewarded by one of his huge ear to ear grins and a “THANKS MOM!!”
Later in the day, I checked my voicemail and saw a number on my cell I did not recognize. I was surprised when the message was from Damian. He was sobbing as he spoke. Something about he couldn’t get it done in time and they wouldn’t even let him turn in what he had done because he did not fill out the form which required a parent’s signature. My heart sunk; the depth of his pain and disappointment became mine as his words washed over me.
I felt like I let him down in a big way. But another voice in my head countered, “Maybe you didn’t. Maybe allowing him to fail will help him. He didn’t do what he needed to for this and you can’t always do it for him.” I know I am not unique in wanted to helping my children be successful. It is hard for me to see one of them fail when I could lend them a hand and help them get a different result. Damian is unorganized. He constantly forgets his homework, his chores, his gear for sporting events, and the list goes on. We are trying to help him manage his responsibilities for himself. But he has a long way to go.
Allowing my beloved children to fail and sample the bitter taste of disappointment is excruciating for me. I don’t know in this case if I did the right thing. I am not sure if I want to believe I did to make myself feel better. He brought his poem home. He had crumpled it in a ball and didn’t even want to show me. I rescued it after he went to bed and when I smoothed out the paper I saw his traditionally messy handwriting. But when I read it, the words drew me a picture of our family and diversity intermingled that made me both ponder and smile.
Diversity is family, black, tan, white, everything.
My sister was adopted from Africa; me and my bro are from America.
My dad is a Greek; my mom is a Dutch.
Yes, that’s four nations, you genius!
We, in my family, are all different you see,
My dad is a b-ball coach and knows how to teach calculus.
Now my 3 year sister loves to boss us around, but she is the cutest girl in town.
Me and my brother play two sports and love to read.
My mom is the lawyer. Yes please, now that’s diversity!
I hope next year he can take his considerable talent and combine it with some planning so he can share it again in the competition. Our diverse family is pictured with Damian showing his off-key nature and timing.