The Importance of Failure
written by Marsha McKeon, Ph.D. Clinical Director
Even before we hold our baby in our arms for the first time, we have clear and beautiful ideas of how it will go, how it must go. We imagine all the joy, the profound love, the perfect holding and tireless effort to give our child more than we ever had.
And, of course, we see ourselves fall short. We earnestly try to protect our children from pain but humbly find it impossible to keep them happy all of the time. There are falls and illnesses and hurts that we cannot control. We are exhausted and short tempered when we should be calm and happy. We feel depressed or anxious and we know that makes things worse. We are a far cry from the perfect parent we imagined. In fact, sometimes we can barely see our little one through the tears in our own eyes.
We know who we should be. Yet, there are so many complicated and confusing feelings, so many worries. We might feel more love than we ever imagined we could feel, and yet, sometimes that love is fierce, dark and fearful. It is not just the sweet and calm kind of love that we feel when things go perfectly well.
Things will not go perfectly well, and that does not mean something is wrong.
In fact, perhaps the most loving thing we can do for our children is to forgive ourselves. We try our best. We are earnestly sorry and then, we forgive ourselves – wholeheartedly and with great compassion.
Because if we can forgive ourselves, with understanding and kindness, if we can soften instead of tighten when we are not everything all of the time, then our children will learn that they do not have to be perfect either. They will know that it is possible to be safe and close and soft with another human being who is not perfect, just like them. And they might just feel loved for who they really are.
And that, perhaps, is the greatest gift of all.