I have a fear of failure. Like seriously. I don’t want to fail doing things. I never before realized how much this fear has held me back. But now that I’ve learned how to look outside of my own brain and what is going on in my head, I can see how not only has my fear held me back, but it’s caused me to hold my kids back too.

If my kids want to do something risky or hard, it’s hard for me to wholeheartedly encourage them to go for it. What if they fail? It will hurt! It will be hard to recover from! It will damage their souls!

I think a lot of this comes from just being a parent and wanting my kids to be successful, amazing, strong, empathetic, successful, and resilient humans. I want them to be all these things naturally. It’s taken a lot of years to realize that strong, resilient, empathetic, successful, amazing humans get that way because they go through stuff. The same type of stuff I’ve been trying to protect my kids from!

I have a son who has a learning disability. It takes lots and lots of repetition to learn something. Experts say what takes one kid 5 times to memorize will take my son 300 times to memorize. His brain works slow. It just takes it’s time.

So at the beginning of the year when his 5th grade teacher, Ms. Peterson, reminded me about the Great American 5th grade challenge that all the 5th grade kids could have the opportunity to participate in, I shot the idea down. I remember saying that this challenge wasn’t going to be for my son and that I was just going to be happy to keep him caught up in his normal work.

The Great American Challenge is to memorize and recite 6 different things.

  • Recite the Gettysburg Address
  • Recite the names of the 45 Presidents in order by date office was held
  • Locate and spell correctly the States and Capitals on a map
  • Recite or sing the National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”
  • Recite the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States
  • Write the Pledge of Allegiance

I hated the thought of my son sitting there trying and trying to learn these hard things and then failing. I couldn’t let my heart allow it.

So I figured that if I just kind of ignored the challenge, he would too . His teacher is fabulous though and together with another mom in the grade, they worked on each item taking time to learn them with songs, practice, YouTube videos, more practice, activities, and handouts. Matthew came home and would listen, sing, practice, and recite a lot. A whole lot.

I went to the Great American Challenge award assembly last week figuring that I would see that he had passed off a few areas and give him a big hug and tell him how proud I was of his effort.

He passed off all 6. Seriously. I was shocked.

And super humbled.

I should not hold my kids back from doing hard things. Ever.

  • What if they fail? I’ll help them back up.
  • What if they get hurt? I’ll dust off their pants.
  • What if they need a soft place to land? I’ll be there with fluffy pillows.

How else can I create these amazing humans if I can’t allow them to try things? Isn’t strength determined not by doing something hard, but by rising each time you fail while doing something hard?

This morning was our annual 5th grade “Bike Hike”. The kids bike from the elementary school to a nearby pool. The pool is 6 miles away.

When my son woke up this morning, he didn’t know how to ride a bike. I meant to teach him, really. But we have an extra amount of chaos going on here and I just ran out of time.

I thought of all my options last night. I prayed for rain. I considered letting him stay home. I thought of possibly driving him to the pool.

But then I remembered him smiling with his certificate and medal. And I decided to allow him the opportunity to fail.

My husband went to work a bit late so he could fill up the tires of a bike with air. My daughter spent several minutes teaching him how to get on a bike.

It wasn’t looking good. But he was able to get on and ride by himself a couple times before it was time to head to school.

My heart wanted to prevent him from failing. But I hugged him and told him how proud I was of him doing the Great American Challenge. I told him that he could do hard things and that he would be alright. I reminded him to focus on what he had already accomplished.

I told him to tell himself that he could do hard things when he wanted to give up.

I got this picture from a parent who went with the kids.

He made it the entire way. All 6 miles.

This is what’s on the other side of failure, my friends. Success. Rewards. Pride.

Allow yourself the opportunity to fail. It’s the only way to truly succeed.