​You, Too, Can Fail for the Win!

Posted by Gina Prosch, Teacher and Boys Town Press Author on Mar 5th 2024

Fail? For the win?

Who in their right mind would ever want to fail? And how can it be considered a win?

Whether we like it or not (and trust me…we don’t like it!), somewhere along the road to adulthood and maturity, our kids will experience setbacks, disappointments, and failure.

They won’t make the team. They’ll flub a word in the spelling bee. They’ll lose out on the lead in the spring musical. They won’t get admitted to their first-choice college.

They’ll be sad or angry or disappointed, and we’ll feel those things right along with them.

Yet, even though all these feelings are valid, we don’t want our kids to remain stuck in the mud, wallowing in them. Instead, we want our kids to have emotional resilience, the ability to bounce back, overcome adversity, and begin again.

But how do they learn to do that? How do children develop the emotional resilience needed to overcome the inevitable failures they will experience in life?

That’s where we as parents come in.

What if we make a point of drawing attention to our own failings?

In Hope! More Than Wishful Thinking, the newest book in my Holly’s Choice series, Holly’s mom shares a story about a time when she was a girl and failed a math test. By showing empathy and sharing a moment of disappointment, Mom helps Holly understand how setbacks and disappointments are part of life.

Mom also gives Holly tools that are more helpful than simply crossing her fingers – she gives Holly tools to learn and grow from failure.

Spring is right around the corner and, no doubt, in the coming months, failure will be my occasional companion. In a few weeks, I will make my annual pilgrimage to my favorite local lawn and garden shops. In a fit of optimism, I’ll buy annuals for my deck flower pots and front porch hanging baskets. With an eye on the future, I’ll spring for some new perennials.

When I get home, chances are my son will ask me, “How long do you think these will last this year?”

As always, I will assure him that “this year will be different!” but unless there’s an unexpected miracle, chances are the garden will yield a mixed bag of results.

Sometimes there’s an unexpected, late frost.

Other times, the local squadron of racoons throw a rave on the deck, dig up my flowerpots, and leave the remains for me to clean up.

Before the season is over, my garden will be a tasty snack for the deer crossing our yard, or I’ll get busy and fall behind on pulling the weeds that crop up.

If, by some miracle, my plants survive this gauntlet, when the late summer days of July and August roll around, a good old-fashioned Missouri heatwave may very well burn up what’s left.

Year after year, my kid sees me give those flowers my best shot and hears my vow to “do better next year” after something inevitably bites the dust.

But over the years, he has also seen me be an active learner!

Now instead of getting angry at the deer who munch my tulip blooms, I happily thwart them by planting only hyacinth and daffodil bulbs.

Cardboard with a thick layer of mulch has become my go-to weed barrier, which makes a tremendous difference in the amount of weeding there is to do.

And, last year, the night before a very late-season frost, I was out in the garden putting cardboard boxes, five-gallon buckets, and quilts over my peony bushes to save the buds that were already breaking open.

When autumn rolls around and I put all the pots in the shed and the garden to bed, my son will look at me and say, “Don’t worry, Mom. Next year will be even better yet!”

So yes, I have failed, and I’ve learned…and I intend to keep on doing both.

I hope you do, too!

PS… If you’ve got any tips about how to outsmart racoons, please send them my way!