Friday, August 17, 2012

Successful Mistakes

Where we are staying, there is a 10 foot jump off into the river.  It looks pretty mild and easy from the water level, but when one ascends the staircase, walks out onto the edge of the platform and looks down, it's a whole other ballgame.  It now feels bone-threatening.

I have watched many a tourist walk up, out, look down and turn around and walk back down the stairs.  I, myself have to psyche myself up every.  single.  time.  I go to jump.  Even when it's immediately after the one I've just a spent Jeopardy! timer song working myself up to.

Enter my thrill-seeking, sensory-input enthusiast of a son.  On his first available opportunity (which was early yesterday morning), he climbed the stairs, walked to the edge and without so much as a second thought, leapt from the platform.

I was happily applauding his bravery as he splashed down only to have that short-lived when he came up crying.  Darling.  What happened?

The dreaded belly flop.  Ironically, he is as sensitive as he is adventurous and has a somewhat unbelievably low pain tolerance threshold.  We hugged, consoled, encouraged, reassured.

But he was done.

No more.  That hurt too much.

As it happened, I was hanging out up on the jumping platform, having coffee, feeding the fish and he was up and down intermittently after the bad jump.  We had some conversation about what happened and both his dad and I explained what caused him to get hurt and how he could jump more safely.  He agreed that it had been fun right up until the flop.  As the morning meandered, he ascended and descended, in and out of conversation.  He asked why it hurt and I explained the physics and we got  into some analogies until he was re-explaining it back to me.  I knew he'd gotten it.

A little later we wrapped it up with me encouraging him to jump again so that the bad one wouldn't be his last impression.  That he could learn from the mistake he made on the first go.

No more jumping, he said.  That really hurt too much.

I accepted this.  Didn't want to push too hard.

A few hours later a group of tourists were there milling about around the jump off and Ryan came down from the house having changed out of, and then back into his swim clothes.  He made a beeline to the platform, cutting right through all the people there and stood at the edge.  "Are you going to jump?!" I yelled up to him.

He shot me with his so-very-Ryan sparkle, said "Sure!" and in the next second was airborne and splashing down.

The assembled group and myself on the periphery were all sort of taken aback by his fast, easy matter-of-factness.  We seemed to be holding our breaths together waiting to see his little head pop up.  Only, I knew what kind of stakes were riding on his facial expression.

It was a huge, proud grin!

He did it!  And even though everyone was proud with him, I was the absolute proudest because he pushed past his fear and did it again and he gained the tremendous reward of knowing that about himself.

He came out and we high fived and high tenned (is it one N or two?) and I told him how proud I was for him.  He marched right back up those stairs and jumped again.  And again.  And again.  It was something like six times in a row.

And several more times throughout the remainder of the day.  Even when, in his words, he was starting to lose his confidence.

Even after another unfortunate belly-flop, from which he surfaced crying in pain.

This was the spark of another hours long, ebbing-flowing conversation about how we can learn from our mistakes.  The conclusion of which was late in the day - when the sun was that thick, rich golden yellow - and Ryan was on his tummy on the swing over the river, sparkling right alongside the water around us and saying to me:

"You know, mom? I think mistakes are probably better than success, because you learn so much more from them."

You know what, Ryan?  I think you're right.  


Sarah said...

Absolutely love you recap of the jumping experience. I especially love Ryan's final thoughts on the matter. So true and such a great lesson learned.
Thanks for sharing! Inspires ME to be more brave not only with myself but for my kids as well.

Milkshaken said...

Thanks Sarah! It makes mistakes seem so much less daunting from that perspective. I'd go as far as to say mistakes seem advantageous from this viewpoint.

So let's do it! And learn some new stuff too :)

brinabird said...

Great post! Ryan is obviously a very wise boy and also very brave! I love how you explain things to your children and will hopefully be able to do the same for my wee man x