As working moms, we often feel like we are treading water just trying to not let our kids down. Feelings of failure can engulf us, as we pray that whatever we are doing, or not doing, won’t officially screw our kids up. No season gives rise to these feelings more than the holidays. This year in particular, the #MOMFAILS came in droves through my repeated attempts to do something amazing (thank you Pinterest), only to end up in extreme disappointment.
On one occasion, my oldest wanted to desperately go ice-skating like Elsa. Seeing her excitement emboldened me to agree to be her heroine and to make good on her holiday wish. I decided to take her and her little sister ON MY OWN to the only ice-skating rink in town the day before Christmas Eve. I had been warned of my ill-conceived plan (insert my husband’s sly smile, raised eyebrow, and comments on how this adventure seemed likely to turn sour faster than a winter with the Donner party), but nevertheless I was determined.
After a very busy morning of fun activities, I marched them up to the rink and immediately knew I had made a very, very bad mistake. My eyes moved from the hoards of kids on the ice, the littlest of them clinging to the walls for dear life as the Rockwellian skaters descended upon them in never-ending circles, to my 4 and 2 year-old displaying naïve smiles of excitement. Mom alerts went off, I had seen less crowded clown cars, and I realized I was not going to be able to “make this work”. Reluctantly, I accepted I was not Dorothy Hamill (seriously, what was I thinking?) and turned around to leave, my oldest starting melt down mode on queue. I hated that I couldn’t be her hero in that moment; however I recognized the disappointment could be salvaged. I had been given an opportunity to teach my daughter these 3 powerful lessons.
FAILURE IS OKAY; LEARN FROM IT AND MOVE ON GRACEFULLY
Experiencing failure is hard and learning how to navigate after can be even harder. It doesn’t take a genius to see I was headed toward failure, but I wanted to try anyhow. We took a moment to discuss what happened, why we could not go skating, and the importance of moving on. I encouraged her to suggest a new plan (woohoo Chick-fll-a!), and when she did the disappointment faded quickly. Later, I made a point to retell the story, to the aforementioned naysayers, pointing out how well she handled the adjustment. We then celebrated the fun of our alternate plan, and agreed to try skating again next year. I wanted her to understand it is okay to fail, experience how to own failure honestly and gracefully, and to remember the results of moving on.
HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR (BECAUSE LIFE SUCKS SOMETIMES)
My daughter has a caring, dramatic, and serious personality (attention Warner Brothers) and when faced with a tough situation she has a hard time “turning that frown upside down”. During this moment, I reminded her of the silly moments we had experienced earlier in the day, used a smattering of well-placed sarcasm (I’m sure this makes some psychologists cringe), and made light of the stumbles we experienced. We discussed how life doesn’t always work out the way we planned and having a sense of humor is a major key to navigating your way around. Practicing this in trying situations will pay dividends later in her life.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE FOR WHAT YOU HAVE
Back in the car (during the height of 4 year old meltdown mode) my daughter said, through tears, that I was the worst mom in the world. At 4, I don’t think she quite understood what that meant, but it definitely crushed my soul a little bit (a lotta bit). As I gathered up the pieces of my heart from the car floor (next to the pile of Starbucks little green topper things that I wish they didn’t put in my coffee), I knew I didn’t want her to grow up with an expectation to get exactly what she wants, and pounced on the opportunity to emphasize appreciation and gratitude. We reflected on the great moments we already experienced earlier in the day, explained the thought behind my failure, and how we both should be grateful for all the wonderful moments we had already been given earlier that day.
This 20 minute #MOMFAIL experience was definitely exhausting and trying, but fortunately I was given a rare opportunity (rare because I’m perfect ;)) to teach my daughter invaluable life lessons: its okay to fail, move on gracefully and with a sense of humor, and be grateful for what you have. I look forward to my next brilliant plan and the opportunity to teach her about always being prepared.