Some days, you do a great job as a parent; others, you make a crashing, screaming, sobbing mess of it.
And at that point you can decide; am I going to carry on as I am because, let's face it, I am clearly a complete loser in the parenting stakes and what's the point of even trying since I make such a hash of it when I do? Or, am I going to put even more effort in - in spite of the repeated risk of falling flat on my face again - because it's better than not trying at all?
When I was growing up, I was reasonably good at most things I tried. I was pretty academic, pretty sporty, pretty sociable, pretty musical… I kind of put in as much effort as I needed to keep me up near the top in as broad a mix of life's eclectic activities as I could. But I was never top of anything. Even in areas where it looked like I maybe could, or possibly even should, have excelled, I never did. Was it because I'm just not that good? That there will always be someone that bit better than me? That's what I had always thought - but over time I found I wasn't so sure. What I came to realise, in relatively recent years, was that although I would put in just enough effort in my endeavours, I would never really knuckle down in any single one of them. At least, certainly not enough to get in the hours of practice I would have needed to excel in a particular area.
Now, I could put that down to not having found my 'niche' - my one true passion; my calling. Or perhaps I didn't have the right support - no one noticed and nurtured my burgeoning talent as a… (insert title of choice here). But in reality, I suspect it was purely and simply: fear. And what I was afraid of most was failure. I was afraid of being a great big failure of laughing stock proportions. You see, what I believe I understood even then, deep down, was that if I never came top of the class so to speak, that would always be ok, would be justifiable - as long as I could say 'Well, I wasn't really trying, you know?'
Oh the infinite possibilities that left open to me! If I had just put a little more effort in, I could have been that concert musician, that celebrated runner, that revered scientist… Ah, the greatness that never was - but the failure that never was either, you see?
Just a quick note here that I think is worth mentioning - there is no part of my ego that is under any illusion that I could have actually been any of those things. Lack of talent would probably have held me back in many areas (although I am a big believer that many obstacles can be overcome with dedication), but more than that, most of the paths I experienced back then held no joy, no passion, no love for me, so would never have turned into my life's calling anyway. But back to the point…
I'm not telling you all this to blow my own trumpet, nor to point out my calculated lazyarse ways. Believe it or not, I am sharing this with you because of how it relates to our parenting. Remember those low, low days I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? On those days, it can feel impossible to even try to change things - after all, what is the point if we are just going to fail yet again? Well, I'm here to tell you that the point is this: if we don't try to do better, to change things, to get unstuck from our parenting ruts, our only option is to fail. Repeatedly.
So, even though it is incredibly tough some days, and even though we risk failure on a regular and heart-breaking basis, we also risk success; we risk change - and it might be exactly the change our family needs to turn the hard stuff on its head and to shift us into a new groove. A groove that will pull our family dynamic into a more joyful, more peaceful, more contented way of being.
So I'm here to celebrate all of your parenting 'failures' - all of the stuff-ups, the shouting, the anger, the shame… All of that - because when we mess up, one thing we can know for sure is that we are really trying. We are trying so bloody hard to do right by our children, and so, because we keep trying, somewhere along the line we risk finding some success. So here's to failure: will you risk it?