just a mom figuring it out one day at a time

Failing Doesn’t Mean You’re a Failure

You’re a parent.  You want to protect your kids. You don’t want to see them hurt. But what do you do when part of what needs to happen is exactly that?

Recently my son took on a school project and chose perhaps the most complicated option available. When CJ gets excited about something he tends to complicate it. In fact, we jokingly call him “the complicator.”

“Mom, I think I am going to write my own song.”

A song. He wants to write a song. Is he crazy? My mind flashes to the hymnals in church.  Will this be a problem? I hope not. It is really cool and creative. Hmmm not really sure if I should go with this.

“When is this due, and do you think you can do it?”

The due date he gives me is more than a month away. It’s followed by numerous assurances that he “has” this.

Even without a musical background, my husband and I have our doubts. CJ’s excitement for this project is unprecedented, so we let him continue.

Over the next month CJ works diligently on the project. He spends hours studying music and composition to figure out how he wants to construct his song. He writes lyrics and rewrites lyrics and develops a melody.  The completed guitar portion is run by his guitar instructor. Things are looking good. The last remaining piece is to compose the vocal melody and tie it to the guitar composition.

Watching his progress unfold is nothing short of amazing. It’s like watching a movie where the underdog begins with nothing but, through sheer will and hard work, accomplishes amazing things. We are now less than a week out from the due date and I begin to see the panic rise in CJ.

In talking to him and doing research, I come to the sick realization that what he’s trying to do is impossible. He simply doesn’t have the skill necessary to finish the project.

Reviewing the list of acceptable options, a poem is suggested as a backup.  He doesn’t want to hear of it.

“I’ve worked too long and hard on this to give up now.”

He continues to work on it and I spend a day searching the web for anything out there which might help him finish.  Instead of a solution, the complexity of this last piece is reinforced. Again I try to persuade him to create a backup plan. Eventually, and thankfully, I succeed and he drafts a poem.

“But I’m not turning that in Mom. I’m gonna do my song. I. Have. To. Do. My.  Song.”

The night before the project is due, he finally hits a wall. Time has run out. It isn’t going to happen.

Screams of “I’m a failure. I failed” echo throughout our house.

Everything I was worried about has happened.  Nothing I do to eases his pain or convinces him otherwise.  CJ is devastated and doesn’t even want to go to school the next day. In his world he has failed; he is a failure.  What he doesn’t realize is that he is anything but.

Should we have stopped him earlier? Maybe, but we went into this with a hope that he would be able to either pull it out, but if he couldn’t, we wanted him to see that sometimes things don’t go as planned and that is “okay.”

A month has gone by since this episode.  I know he’s still somewhat bummed about the song, but he continues to work on it, just because he wants to. He’s even asked his teacher if he could bring it in before the year is out-just because.

Perhaps what’s most important is that he’s learned a valuable life lesson. Life is full of occasions where no matter how hard you work; things don’t go the way you want them to. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.  Life isn’t just about reaching goals. Sometimes it’s what happens along the way, and what you learn from it, that is more valuable than the actual goal.

One Response to “Failing Doesn’t Mean You’re a Failure”

  1. Wendy McClellan says:

    Failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means at least you tried.

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