The art of failing (as taught by my toddler)

For the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about when my son was learning to walk. I have this picture in my mind:

He’s standing near Reba’s bed, eyeing the coffee table across the living room. I can see that he has set his sights on the toys stored under the table. He’s a bit wobbly standing there… and then he goes. He takes two steps and — PLUNK – falls down. He doesn’t look at me (a clear sign he doesn’t need me in that moment); he simply plants his hands and then his feet on the ground, his butt in the air, and stands up. He takes another couple of steps and down he goes again. Over and over, he does this. Sometimes he falls simply. Other times, more spectacularly. He never cries, never gets frustrated. He just gets back up and starts again, every time. After four or five tries, he makes it to his toys, plops onto his butt, and reaches for a garbage truck.

I am amazed.

It’s not his persistence or success that amazes me. It’s his equanimity. He never seems disappointed or discouraged, no matter how many times he goes down. He never hesitates to get back up. He is completely unfazed by all that falling.

It’s as if he takes it for granted. He expects to fall down. Or, if he doesn’t expect it, he surely accepts it.

Oh, if we grown ups only had such a graceful relationship with failure.

If we could remember that falling is an inevitable part of learning to walk; that there is no shame in being a learner; that all we have to do is decide where we want to go, let our desire propel us, and get up and start again after we fall… how many little garbage trucks would we be holding, now, in our pudgy, sweet hands?

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