July 2012

Summer is made to be lived out of doors, and so many of our nights begin and end in our own backyard. Having three little ones with two different bed times does not lend itself to our traveling too far from home for most meals, but it has helped us to appreciate the fun and beauty in our own backyard picnics.

The boys and I recently discovered a small table that had been my parents, and had apparently been passed down to me through the years. I have so many amazing memories of my childhood just from this small table: Trips every weekend to Ravinia to hear music on the lawn from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, my mother’s amazing spread of food that we enjoyed on that table for what felt like hours, the setting sun, the joy of music filling the night sky, and hundreds of people quietly listening and eating. It is my strongest summer memory with my parents.

We found the table mixed in with the boy’s light sabers (not really sure how that happened), and it went right into our own yard. There may be no live orchestra, but there is certainly some good tunes through the iPod to enjoy. There may not be hundreds of revelers, but certainly there is a family full of revelry. Good food, good music, good company is all one needs to enjoy a picnic in one’s backyard, and to reminisce on the best of summertime memories.


Embracing Failure

July 17, 2012

Failure is a tough word. It is a word that, at least for me, brings up feelings of worth and value. Failure is something that we all try to avoid, to miss, to steer clear from, but at the same time, failure is probably what defines a large part of who we all are at our core.

I feel grateful that I was not raised in a household where the word failure, or even success, were thrown around much. I don’t ever remember my parents saying that I failed at anything, and I am pretty sure that it was my school years that first introduced me to not just the word, but the concept as well.

As I now watch my children grow, I am faced with just how much power one word can have.

I have certainly spent my parenthood trying to keep my children safe from harm.As parents, we are hard wired to want only what is best for our kids, and what helps them to find joy. Of course, there are the moments where you realize that no matter how much you want to save your child from pain, from a bad experience, that allowing some difficult moments to run their course are truly essential.

My son Jacob recently asked me if I had ever failed at anything. My smart mouth inner self wanted to reply with a sharp “how long do you have?”, but I  I knew that Jacob wasn’t asking a random question, he had something on his mind and he needed to talk it through. He told me that he had failed to be a good friend because he had not intervened when a friend had been taunted by another child at the park. It was clearly a huge source of anger for him, and of guilt, and my heart broke listening to him tell his story.

I have to admit that when he first asked me about it, this was not the failure I had in mind. I had been thinking of the 8th grade history test I had failed, the souffle that I am still angry failed to rise, and the failure of my camping stove the one time I tried to use it. His failure seemed a whole lot heavier than what I was expecting.

I wanted to bombard my son with stories of my own failures, of how he was a wonderful friend, of how sometimes we make choices that we later regret but that do not make us bad people. Instead, I sat quietly and let him finish. Whether or not I felt that what had occurred was a failure, in this moment Jacob was recognizing something inside of himself that was important, that was becoming a part of his fundamental nature: that standing by and doing nothing is not acceptable. If I had allowed him to think otherwise, If I had given him a free pass on what had occurred on the playground, this part of him might not develop. To him, the failure that he felt was literally transforming him while he spoke. I knew that he would think twice about ever letting someone be taunted without speaking up, that he would look out a little closer for those who could not stand up for themselves. I knew that this moment, this failure to act had changed him forever.

I thought back to the failures that I have faced in recent years, and I was struck but just how much good they have done. My mother and father’s words of “always learn from your mistakes” came flying back, and I realized that allowing my children to not only fail, but to feel their failure fully was a step in my parenting that I needed to take.

We all live in a world where perfection is coveted, but perfection does not teach us many lessons. It is in the moments where we are faced with something that we do not like about ourselves, our behavior, our lives, that we figure out who we truly are. As parents, I suppose that all that we can hope for, and guide towards, is that these moments will spur change, and will help our children forge a path in which they not only find happiness, but create it as well.

Joining Nicole for Keep Calm and Craft On