Yesterday afternoon started out on a great note. Michael came home from school, shared his day, and then was so excited to go to the park and play tennis with me. Yes, I said tennis! He has been taking tennis lessons indoors at a school gym since the fall, and I cannot begin to say how blown away his Dad and I are by his progress. In the last few classes particularly, we have seen him bloom, and though Dad usually takes him alone, the last videos I watched brought tears to my eyes. He was doing back hand, forehand. He went from not being able to connect with the ball to hitting it over the net and playing understanding where to aim his ball. This is huge for this Mom who is always worried about how he would do at sports.
So though I was a little worried about playing outside with the winds and Mom throwing the ball (who is twenty years out of practice of playing tennis, by the way), I agreed to go. Michael went over on his scooter and was so full of confidence and happiness that I was beaming along side him. Then we settled in at the tennis courts up the street from our house. And it happened. He kept trying to hit the ball the way he did in class, but missed many times or would hit backhand not forehand and the ball would go off course. It was windy and I was not sure how to adjust my throwing, half way through I figured that out. No matter. He got discouraged and we ended up leaving with Michael in tears saying he is not a good person and he is not proud of himself. He didn’t even want to scooter home, he was so upset.
Watching him suffer through this was like looking into a mirror. That was me at his age, though I didn’t always say out loud just how bad I felt about myself. Of course I repeated to him that he is wonderful and did his best, then when we got home after he finished crying, I hugged him and told him that he needed practice outside more. On our first try, things don’t always go perfectly. This summer the same teacher will be teaching outside tennis and he is eager to take those lessons too. Thank God the experience yesterday did not discourage him from the progress he made and from trying. But watching him suffer was hard as his Mom. I felt so helpless in giving him a pep talk at first, as I remembered my Mom with me. She’d been baffled as to why I had such low self-esteem, and it took years for me, into adulthood, to learn about my worth. It broke my heart to see that Michael takes after me, and I prayed that I could give him the tools to learn about his own worth before adulthood, especially given his more intense anxiety and esteem issues. My Mom did amazing work, but I still had long road to learning to manage my own anxiety.
Exceptional Parents, how do you handle failure in your own life? How do your Exceptional Children handle it? This is tough one, as some failures are easier to bounce back from than others. Still, as with every challenge now, you can choose to see failure and mistakes as a chance to learn something new about yourself, your limits, and beliefs about right and wrong. If you frame it in a question of, “what can I learn from this, or what can I do differently?” your child will learn in time to do the same. Until next time.