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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Getting comfortable with failure

Phew, it's been a busy week! The weather this week was a beautiful prelude for spring's approaching arrival, though it still feels a bit out of place since we haven't seemed to have had a normal winter yet. Still, I sure love these days with temps in the 70s, the feel of wearing my flip flops again, and going outside with a short-sleeved shirt. With weather like that we've been spending more time soaking up that organic vitamin D.

We spent a few mornings out in the backyard, the boys playing in their sand and water table (minus the water for now) while I dug my hands into the dirt to pull up some weeds, listening to the soundtrack of my happy, giggling boys in the background. I was so pleasantly surprised to discover how much better Ben and Hugh play together outside than they do inside. It was peaceful and warm and I got my hands dirty. I really, really love getting my hands in dirt. There must be someone else out there who completely gets what I mean by that without any further explanation. Yes?

And, since I'm the mother of two young boys I was super excited to find a worm in my digging. (Otherwise I would have been semi-grossed out.) I called for Ben and Hugh to come look. You should have seen the ways their eyes lit up and their hands trembled to get their turn to touch the slimy, wiggly little guy. Ben had his sand pail with him, so I put some dirt in his bucket and then put the worm in there for him. The expression on his face made it clear that he thought that was just about the coolest thing ever. (And, doesn't that follow that I would then be considered the coolest mom ever?! haha!)

And, just when I was starting to think things couldn't be going any better I found a caterpillar. And then two more after that. I grabbed an old 10# wheat can that I had just emptied out the week before and thought I'd better hang on to it for something exactly like this. I had the boys help me put in a good layer of soil at the bottom, then we put in some leaves and welcomed our three caterpillars into their new home. They seemed pretty excited about what we were doing, even though I'm pretty sure they weren't thinking quite as far ahead as I was.

I was having visions of watching these three caterpillars go through their process to becoming something miraculous and beautiful and teaching my very young toddlers all about it along the way. I'd finally redeem myself from all those years of struggling through every science class I ever took. I'd make it fun and exciting and learn new things myself.

So, while the boys were down for naps I transferred the caterpillars to a glass fish bowl, all set up properly (according to my search results on Google). I almost took pictures to show off the start of Science Project #1, with plans to document the entire process with photos. Imagine my visions of beautiful pupas, watching the butterflies emerge in all their glory, setting them free with the boys by my side. Our first science experiment together!

With all of these grand visions dancing through my head, you can only imagine my great disappointment when the next day I checked on our little caterpillars only to find that all three had died. So much for redemption. At least the boys are still too young to know what a terrible failure I am at anything remotely related to science. Maybe I still have some time!

But, you know, there was something about this experience that made me start to feel more comfortable with failure. Although, not just failure ('cause I'm already a pro at that), but more specifically feeling comfortable with my boys seeing me fail. It's part of life and I know it'll be healthy for them to see me in situations of falling short. My hope is that I'm also able to show them how to get back up and try again, how to greet failure without losing the excitement of attempting new things and still hungry to learn.

As a bit of a side note, you know what's funny? For Valentine's Day I made homemade fortune cookies, complete with fortunes I found with Google's help. And, one of them actually goes perfectly with this little story:

"Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."


Kelly said...

I was working in my yard last week, too. Your post made me laugh. I found a ton of caterpillars all over my yard but they were all DEAD already. So, sometimes not even nature can keep things alive! I was bummed because I wanted to show my girls some that were alive. All I seemed to find that was still moving were spiders...which I detest.

Becky Rose said...

when I was a nanny during caterpillar season, I would say to the 18-2 year old "they are so happy, they are just so happy" over and over again until they said it, because I knew they would want to bring them in, make them their pet and they would die and I'm so opposed to that. I knew if they thought they were happy, they would leave them there.