While my husband is the adventurer, I am the cautious observer. I encourage my kids to try things, while understanding their fears and reservations. Sometimes though, you have to push them to try new things without pushing to the point that you'll end up paying beaucoup bucks for therapy sessions. A mighty fine line parents have to walk, huh?
Ashton had observed his cousins, uncles and dad surfing the New Jersey waves. We had asked him on this trip (and previous ones) if he wanted to try, but we always got the same answer: "No, I really just want to play with (insert name of favorite cousin of the day here)." Then one day, he specifically asked my husband to teach him how to surf. I could practically hear my husband's heart explode with delight, not to mention the excitement in his voice, to finally be teaching one of his kids to surf.
As we drove to the beach, I could see Ashton in the mirror stroking the surfboard with his hand, examining it and possibly rethinking his decision. Of course, if he changed his mind, we wouldn't pressure him, but we also wanted to teach him to follow through and not give up so easily.
We didn't want to make a big deal out of his decision and cause him to feel added pressure, so we casually walked to the beach. (We really wanted to get out into the water as soon as possible so he couldn't change his mind!) Ashton played in the water for a bit and bodysurfed with his uncles and cousins. Those waves gave him the adrenaline that he needed, and he was finally ready to tackle some Jersey waves.
If you have more than one child, you know it is a challenge to keep your eye on all of them…all at once. I watched as Oliver caught some sand crabs and delighted in watching them swim in his bucket.
Adelle chased and ran away from the waves, screaming in delight as the water caught up to her feet.
In between, I watched as Ashton fall off the board over and over again, barely standing for a second. My heart sunk as I watched his face getting discouraged. No parents want to see their child fail. But without failure how can you measure success? So after falling face first into the water time and time again, he continued to ride the wave until he finally stood up. Even for a few seconds, he conquered. He experienced failure and felt the joy of success because he didn't give up.
Through our many little excursions to the beach or park or even on a walk, I have seen that kids want to try new things. They want to see if they can make that jump off two stairs or walk on the sidewalk ledge without falling or walk on the tiles without stepping on the cracks. They may be able to do it. They may not. Opportunities to "fail" are everywhere, but so are lessons. We can teach our kids that it is okay to fail and to keep trying. One day, they may be able to make that jump or ride that wave. Some days they won't, and it hurts to see them dismayed, but the joy when they conquer that quest is beyond words. That day at the beach won't soon be forgotten. It gave Ashton that boost of confidence that he can – maybe not at first – but he can!