By: Brandy Black
My wife and I often find ourselves engaged in an ongoing conversation about our daughter’s future. We started this discussion while avoiding wedding planning and instead discussed what we wanted our kids to learn from each of us; it continued 9 years later under dim lights, sitting on bar stools over Sidecars and Whiskey at Jar restaurant. It’s surprising how delightful the notion of imparting the sweetest parts of Susan and me can be, especially while out on a date alone together; this seems to be one of the only times we can celebrate our good sides. We tossed back homemade chips and debated over how much or little encouragement to give our daughter in 12 years. She’s always a teenager in our discussions, clearly this seems to be the most concerning age to us. I think Amy Chua and the crazy “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” stories are what sparked this conversation. The debate became how-much-love-and-unequivocal-positive-support-to-give vs. encouragement-to-do-better-and-always-improve. We mulled over that perfect balance of allowing our child to strive to do better without making her feel like she can never do well enough. We have both seen examples of the extreme kid in either area: the kid who knows he can do no wrong and therefore never really tries that hard because it’s assumed that he has reached perfection vs. the kid who becomes such a perfectionist and never celebrates her successes because there is an ominous voice telling her she isn’t good enough.
I believe a truly well-rounded individual is one who realizes that the perfect person is always flawed. You can never really reach perfection in my book without understanding that perfection changes and grows and the true gift is knowing that you are always able to improve while being excellent at the same time. If one can come to terms with this idea, then they will never struggle with fault and never settle for less than their best effort.
We recently went to a dance show in which one of the dancers fell during the performance. This was very difficult for her and we knew it. Both Susan and I have had a history of performing and know that those days happen. They always will and what’s most important is not avoiding mistakes entirely (they are inevitable), but knowing how to bounce back from them –how you let them shape who you are as a person and how you will respond next time. Everyone falls; it’s who can get themselves up fastest that makes the true winner.
So I travel through my days reminding myself that it’s OK to make mistakes, that they will forever change me yet I can still be the remarkable person I strive to be. I hope my daughter takes this lesson to heart and one day celebrates both her wins and losses because they are equal.