Failing less.

The cool and sweet breath of spring gently enters through windows opened for the first time since autumn.   I have been craving a walk lately.  Space to be connected to the trees and sky and earth– to watch how Nature continues to grow and thrive and spin without worrying an iota about how it will do so.  I want to be more like that.


Today Sophie came home with a report from her teachers that said she was having a rough week.  She refused to do things and the only way they could get her to do them was through “coersion”.  What do you do?  I pulled her away from the television and into the living room to talk.  “God, give me the words to say,” I quickly prayed as I walked across the hallway floors, “Don’t let me damage her little heart.”  And so I asked her how school was going this week.  The seriousness of my tone was a clue to the purpose of our conversation, and deciphering the clue, Sophie clamped her mouth shut.  “Sophie, how has school gone this week?” Still nothing.  Occasionally, her little doe eyes would peep up at me, but no words escaped the rosebuds that were her lips.  “Sophie, do you know your teachers care about you?” I asked her.  “And Gaga loves you, and I love you.  And you need to listen to the people who love you.  I know you can do that Sophie.”  More silence. “I’m going to ask your teachers how you do tomorrow, and if I hear that you listened, you can earn sweet treats and shows back.”

I don’t know what the heck I am doing.  

Should I be using both food and television as my own means of coersion?  Should I have been more harsh, would my firmer demands have spoken more than lovey-dovey-peace talk?  I often wonder this with students, too– I admire the no-nonsense teachers– the teachers who lay down the law and set the bar high and expect kids to adhere to their standards– because for the most part, kids do, they really do.  I can understand how fear can instill respect which in turn produces results. So maybe I should set the bar higher, make the boundaries narrower, the rules more rigid.

I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

Since she wasn’t allowed to watch TV with Ellie and Cohen, she decided to go outside.  From my seat on the porch, I watched her make loops around the cul-de-sac on the big wheel.  Occasionally, she would get off and stand in the middle of the street– alone, twirling her hair, her hips slightly bent and her eyes staring at things only she could see.  Her lips would occasionally move, and I knew she was creating Story again– shaping and testing words she only somewhat understands, rearranging rhymes and tones and rhthyms like a wisened and prodigious poet. Sophie has access to all sorts of worlds no matter where she goes– she is a Creator.  And while she is rarely bored— her imagination often becomes a means to avoid, escape, and ignore a less preferable reality. 

My little poet would attempt to fly a kite later that afternoon.  She would run around the cul-de-sac, her neck craned upward, her slightly-turned-in-feet creating her now-recognizable pigeon-toed gallop.  She would toss the kite in the air and it would crash and get tangled in her yellow-flowered shoes.  She would grow frustrated and come play in the back of the blue pick-up truck and try to ease herself smoothly through the tiny rear window (like her brother), but she would get stuck and cry out for me.  She would tumble into the back seat, and without missing a beat she would pat her baby sister’s back and invite her to join the new world about army generals and sea captains she would soon inevitably create.


This morning, my mom walked in like she usually does, bearing a plastic bag of cinnamon bread for the kids, lemon water and cereal and raspberries for herself.  However, this time she also said, ‘I got you a gift.’  She handed me a small magnet: “I wish  I could find the perfect words to tell you how proud I am of all you’ve done and everything you’ve become.  Every time I see you, I know that I am looking at as beautiful a gift as anyone has ever been given…”  I choked up and brushed the tears away before they would make my mascara run.  “Thanks, Mom” I choked out.

I don’t know if I said the right things to Sophie.  I’m not even sure if I am thinking too much about the situation in the first place.  But I do know that I am loved– loved without measure.  And Sophie knows that too.  And in this love, it’s safe to try and fail and pray, and try and fail some more.  Love courses through our veins, in our blood– from mothers to daughters, from fathers to sons.  Until one day our children will pray, and try, and fail– but not quite fail as much as us.  And their kids will pray more and fail less.  And Grace, like an alchemist in his laboratory, or a poet poised to Create, will take these failures and weave them into a new element, a new story of Love.  And we will, like Nature,– sync ourselves up with holy, hold on tightly, and trust that heaven will continue its march toward earth.   

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8 Responses to Failing less.

  1. vandemom2 says:

    I was hoping to share this directly to Facebook, but cannot figure out how. Is there a way?


  2. vandemom2 says:

    oops, I posted too soon… there a way other than copy/past the web address?


  3. vandemom2 says:

    I understand how you would worry that you might hurt her little heart or squelch some of her creativity. The good part is that you let love be your guide. Sophie is blessed. So am I because you, Liz, are part of my life.


  4. papa says:

    enlightening Elizebeth


  5. Megan Clapp says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for your authentic and honest words. They are a gift to me.


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