Last week we had the blessed opportunity to spend time with family. The kids got to meet their cousins and begin a lifetime of memories with them, at least that’s the hope. There were actually a few times during the week when I became emotional watching all 11 of the cousins play. I was never particularly close with my cousins and it has always been something I’ve wanted for my kids, but that’s a story for another day.
Today’s story is about the blessing of failure.
Last Thursday while staying at the aforementioned cousins’ house, Lyssa, who is 6, woke up and being the independent girl that she is, went about fixing herself some breakfast.
(and because I couldn’t help myself here is a picture of Lyssa as a baby…so cute!)
She grabbed out a bowl, set it on the table, fished a spoon out of the drawer next the fridge, snagged the gallon of milk and got to work. She first filled her bowl with the amount of milk she anticipated needing. She then went to the pantry and chose Wheat Chex as her breakfast cereal. She had previously never eaten Wheat Chex and she is a very particular eater, this is important to know. She dumped a serving of the Chex into her bowl and after trying a bite realized that she didn’t like it. To try and cover up the awful taste of the Wheat Chex she went back to the pantry, chose a box of Honey Nut Cheerios and mixed them in with the milk and the Wheat Chex. She tasted again…still no good.
At this point she decided to start over. She drank the milk from her bowl (can’t waste good milk), and then slowly and carefully put each cereal back into it’s respective box, mostly. A few Chex ended up in the Cheerios box and vice versa. At this point she found something else to eat for breakfast, finished up her meal, cleaned up her spot and went about her morning.
A bit later I ventured into the kitchen to get some breakfast. I decided on Cheerios and started to fill my bowl. As soon as I tried to pour, a very large, very soggy, very disgusting lump of cereal fell into my bowl followed by other lumps that gathered on the table and floor. For a moment I was confused until I saw the Wheat Chex mixed in and realized that surely a child had had their way with the cereal earlier and I was reaping the benefits.
Upon brief questioning, and after throwing away two recently opened and fairly full boxes of cereal, Lyssa came forward as the culprit. She explained her process to me and then started to cry and say how sorry she was (while I stifled some serious laughs!). I had her take a few deep breaths and then we talked. I asked her what happened and as she started to cry again and beat herself up she blurted out that she had failed.
“YES! Yes Lyssa, you failed. How wonderful!”
She looked at me confused as I began to explain to her the wonderful blessing (while acknowledging the pain) of failure.
“Lyssa, what did you learn from your failure?”
“Nothing Mom…that I’m stupid.”
“Lyssa, what did you learn about what cereals you like and don’t like?”
“Well, I don’t like Chex..and I still don’t like it even when it’s mixed with Cheerios.”
Our conversation went on like this for a few minutes. We talked about the things she knows now because of her failed experiment…
She doesn’t like Wheat Chex.
Taking a few bites of cereal before pouring a whole bowl is a good idea.
Once cereal has milk on it, it cannot go back in the box.
And so on.
There were no more tears, there was no more shameful self talk. Lyssa actually got excited as we discussed all of her new information. We ended the talk with a high five and a plan to buy two new boxes of cereal to replace the ones she’d ruined.
And while failure will certainly still be difficult for her, I am so glad that in that moment I could coach her (and myself) into a new way of viewing it.
Failure is so beautiful because it brings knowledge. It’s also painful and hard and sometimes embarrassing. I have never taken failure well in my own life. I tend to retreat and shame myself into not trying anymore and in so doing I overlook all of the beautiful information that “failures” present to me. Failure is a surefire way to learn what I like and dislike, what situations bring anxiety, how I feel after being told certain things and so many more tid bits of information that allow me to be true to myself and stand my sacred ground.
Here’s to failure and the beauty of new information! Thanks for mixing the cereal Lyssa and reminding me to slow down and appreciate even the missy bits of life.