Friday, October 4, 2013

Terrible wisdom geek parents give their children

Yeah, I use the Bible to instruct my kids. It's a very useful book for such things (2 Tim 3:16) but, honestly, we're talking about a book that uses athletics, farming, military service, sheepherding and finding change in your couch cushions as teaching examples. I'm raising a couple of geeks; if the best way to make the story of the lost sheep clear is to explain that it's kind of like the relationship between Aang and Appa*, I'm going to explain it that way.

The problem is, there are some genuinely terribly geek phrases to use when raising kids. I want to talk about one of them: "No. Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

I used to think this was great advice. I mean, some tasks are pass/fail, right? You either ate everything on your plate, or you didn't. Eat, or eat not. Yeah, turns out that the real answer is a lot more complicated than that.

See, I've learned that I love it when my kids fail.

No, wait, don't tune me out as another psychopathic parent. I don't like the fact that they fail, I like the opportunity that comes from failure.

See, it's something I'd kind of forgotten myself. I'm not saying that I never fail - I do, every day - but that I'd forgotten what it is to learn from new kinds of failure. Failing a test? That's going to happen. You'll learn about study habits, about the limits of your mind, about what it's like to have an expectation of success only to be completely wrong. Art project failure? The difference between what you see in your head and what you can make in the world can be staggering. Sometimes, the dross turns out to be a lot more interesting than the gold. Failed friendship? The people who're standing with you in the end, keep them close. Everything fades. Yes, everything.

I've learned these lessons. Not to perfection, not by a long shot, but these are things that kids, well, they just don't know about until the failure's already happened. It's like learning to walk. They learn to sit up after falling a hundred times. They learn to crawl after faceplanting a hundred times. They cruise, holding onto the end of the couch for support, then one day they get to the end of it, let go and . . . big grin - "Dad! I'm standing!" in a single expression.

And then they fall onto their diapered butt and start again, still not having mastered walking. And you applaud their failure, call your parents and your in-laws to brag loud and proud about what your child just failed to do.

I like this instead: "Do or do not, but at least try. Even if you fail, you'll learn something."

I'm not saying this is a perfect system and that it always applies. There are times - like mealtimes - where something you just have to demand success and nothing less, but you have to choose those battles wisely, geek parents, and even moreso, you have to choose the wisdom you'll use to win those battles.

After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

*, for my non-geek friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment