On Yoda and Resiliency
Out of context, this seems to mean that you either succeed, or you fail, but “just trying” is meaningless without something to show for it.
If I had believed that, I would have spent my entire childhood inside doing nothing. Except maybe reading.
My childhood is full of memories of my throwing or slamming down a spatula, crayon, paintbrush, bike, needle and thread, popsicle sticks or playdough or whatever implement, and yelling, “I CAN’T DO IT!” or “It’s NOT RIGHT!”
Which is why it broke my heart when one of my kids tried to shoot a little squishy ball into our toddler basketball hoop, missed, and said, “I CAN’T DO IT. I’m running away.” And ran to the front steps and sat down.
There’s been a lot of that “I CAN’T DO IT” frustration in our household recently. Trying to poke an uncooperative piece of food with a toddler fork. Being asked to break apart or chomp one’s own food. Being asked to put on one’s own article(s) of clothing. Trying to put on one’s own shoe. Trying to match puzzle pieces, or stack blocks, or any one of a number of activities that don’t go the way they want the first time.
One of the most important things I want to teach my kids is resilience. Because it’s important, right? What Yoda really meant was about resilience and perseverance, not Luke’s glum attitude of “Well, I guess I’ll try.”
But even more so, because I have struggled my whole life with resilience. I’m a recovering perfectionist. I spent way too many minutes of this precious life agonizing over mistakes, frustrated with the need to learn through trial and error. It may be hardest to watch kids wrestle with the same issues we have spent a lifetime wrestling with: we know exactly how hard it is.
This morning, as my beloved sensitive kid took FOR-EV-ER to try to put on shorts, and I was supposed to not jump in to help too soon, but it was painful to watch the attempt get stuck on the diaper, or the waistband roll, and the kid had to take a break and try again. I was supposed to wait and trust.
But. There’s always a but.
I was hosting a meeting at my house, the first meeting of a support group for new moms of multiples (8 moms plus 16 babies ages 2 weeks through 5 months in my living room!). I still had to set out food, get drinks, arrange chairs, pick up remaining toys…I was on the clock, man. And this kid was getting distracted. By toys. By siblings. And tried half-heartedly again.
I KNOW that the only way we get better at something is to practice. I KNOW practice takes time, and toddlers have a very different sense of time than we do. And I KNOW that this kid feels acutely the “hurry along, why don’t I just do that for you” energy. To the point where kid has said, “I’m just not good at this.”
And I let my annoyance show anyway. And I walked away.
I apologized, and I asked for forgiveness, and we snuggled, but I still felt bad. Until it occurred to me to look at this in a different way.
When my kids say, “I CAN’T,” they hear me saying, “Instead of saying ‘I can’t,’ we can say”:
- “This is really tricky.”
- “Help, please.”
- “I’m going to take a break and try again.”
What I did today after my less-than-ideal interaction with my kid was:
- berate myself for failing.
- feel like a Mean Mama.
- stew over it way longer than I needed to.
So, as usual, teaching my kids what I want them to learn involves my learning and living it too.
I believe there is great power in the attempt. The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the learning and growth that happens in the process. I think Yoda agrees.
This parenting gig is really tricky. I’m going to take a break and try again in the next moment. And the next.