Dear Children, I Want You to Fail. Love, Mom

Note: This post was originally published on For Every Mom. I wanted to post it here first, but apparently after you neglect your blog for 3 months, it breaks! So we had to have it fixed yesterday. Oops.

Recently Sophie and Joshua have become enamored with cooking shows, so thanks to Netflix and Hulu we’ve been watching Chopped, Cupcake Wars, and Master Chef Junior. I’ve never watched these before, but we’re enjoying them, PLUS I’m learning a lot about weird food I’ll never cook.  But, as I’ve watched and bonded with my kids over these shows, I’ve noticed a phrase that the cooking competitors say over and over again. I’ve heard it many times before in all sorts of contexts, but since we’ve been binge-watching these cooking shows, my kids and I have heard these 5 words over and over again a lot recently:

“Failure is not an option.”

And I get it. These competitors came to win, not to mess around. Winning would mean a lot for them both financially and clout-wise for their businesses.

But. I don’t like my kids hearing “Failure is not an option” over and over again. Because the truth is, failure is always an option. It is an option that all of us will have to accept at some point in our lives, willingly or unwillingly. It is a fact of life that we all need to know how to handle so that we don’t fall apart when it becomes our reality (like many of the chefs on Chopped, mere moments after we’ve confidently declared that it is not an option). I’ve been thinking about that phrase often over the past few weeks, and finally, I have to say something about it. So, pardon me while I clear my throat and take a minute to speak to my children about failure.

Dear Joshua, Sophie, and Jonah,

Hey kiddos. I want to tell you a story about your mother. When I was a junior in high school, sweet 17, I was having a pretty great year. I know it’s hard to  imagine, but I was kind of fabulous! I was the lead in the school play and the school musical. I had a solo in the honors choir. My talents were lauded and I loved what I was doing. Soon I would be a senior. The best was yet to come. (Can you imagine me being young and cool? I was, I swear.)

Jenny Annie
Your mother in her glory days. Don’t act like you’re not impressed!

At the beginning of my senior year, I approached the fall play auditions with full confidence in my abilities. I knew what part I wanted and I knew I would get it. My audition and my callback were great. There was no doubt in my mind I would succeed.

Except…I didn’t. As all of us hopefuls gathered after school around the poster in the hallway where the cast list had been posted, I eagerly looked for my name. And I looked. And I looked, and I looked. Eagerness turned to disbelief. Then the tears came. People all around me were as shocked as I was. Looks of pity abounded. I ran away humiliated.

I had failed. And not even at anything hard, kiddos. At something that came easily to me. At something I was good at. I failed big time.

I cried all the way home and all night long. I remember my mom trying to comfort me but I don’t remember what she said. I just remember the humiliation and the hurt. It was my senior year! It was supposed to be my victory lap, and I was out before the race even started. Not only did I not get the part I wanted, and I didn’t get ANY part.

Somehow I moved on—I don’t really remember how. My 18-year-old ego was bruised but I managed to show my face at school despite my failure. My friends avoided the topic, and I tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. But it was there with me, every day.

Soon, however, I had something to distract me from my failure: an accident. In one of those “urban legend” type stories, one of my best friends—a boy—had a pretty bad accident at school in shop class. And after surgeries and a solid 3 weeks of missed school, not to mention trying to study on painkillers, he needed a tutor. I was in all 3 of the required graduation classes with him, and because of my failure to win my coveted spot in the school play, I had lots of free time. Soon I was spending most days after school helping him catch up on his senior year schoolwork.

Also, since he couldn’t drive due to his injury and medications, I started picking him up for school events and soccer games. We were spending a ton of time together, and eventually, about three months after my epic failure, we started dating.

You’re smart kids, so you’ve probably already figured out that that boy was your father. But what you didn’t know about me and your dad is that our getting together was in large part due to what at the time I considered a huge embarrassing failure. If I had gotten that part in the school play that I wanted SO badly, I would not have been available to help your dad catch up on all his school work and pass those classes he needed to graduate. I wouldn’t have become his driver, his companion, his girlfriend. Maybe God would’ve brought us together some other way, but…maybe not. After all, though I am so glad your dad and I chose each other, I don’t believe that there’s only ONE person in the world out there that you’re destined to marry. Maybe if I’d succeeded instead of failed at that school play audition, we would have remained “just friends.” Maybe I would have gone to college without a boyfriend and met some nice Christian guy there and married him instead. Maybe you kids wouldn’t be here. Maybe I would have missed a life that is so, so, so, much better than a lead role in a high school play.

Since then, I’ve failed many times over, my babies. I’ve failed at jobs, at friendships, and as you know, at countless mom moments. And that’s because, kiddos, failure is ALWAYS an option. But it’s not always a bad thing. It’s only bad if you don’t LEARN from it. In a failure you may feel pain, but you may also learn to empathize. You may be broken, but because you’re broken and desperate, you can experience the glory of being fully dependent on Christ. And you may fail at opportunities you reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want only to be available for ones you’d never dreamed of getting.

Kids, I don’t want you to be afraid of failure because I don’t want you to be afraid to TRY. I’m not looking for perfection from you, my dears, I am looking for effort. Try and care! Succeed and fail! Do it all for the Glory of God and let Him do what He wills with the results. I’m here for you no matter what. You’re loved and cherished and valued no matter what. And if you continue to give your lives to Christ, you really cannot go wrong in your failures or in your wins.

So, darlings, that’s about where I run out of wise words, but I’ll leave you with this:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” —Thomas Edison

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”.—Proverbs 19:21

I love you guys. Now go out and try some stuff!




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The Strands that Bind

My little Sophie was born with a lot of hair. Until she was five months old, it stuck up like this:

And now that she’s two, it’s long and glorious:


Her hair is almost always what people comment on when they meet her for the first time. Her hair is her “thing”.

Ever since she was able to grab it in her chubby baby fists, Sophie has loved playing with my hair. On our long car ride home from vacation this summer, when she’d get fussy, I’d take my hair out of its ponytail and let her play with it. Every time I buckle her in her car seat to go anywhere, she plays with it while I fasten her buckles.

Lately, she has begun to play with her own hair quite a bit, especially when she’s tired. She’s a twirler, and every morning wakes up with a huge rat’s nest in her hair from where she’s twirled it to get herself to sleep. Which is A LOT of fun for both of us later in the day. But she must think it’s worth it, because she keeps twirlin’ no matter how much it hurts when I brush it out.

This morning after I picked her up out of her crib, we sat down on the couch for our morning snuggle. She cuddled me for a few moments and then sat up and began twirling her hair. Then, with a “lightbulb” smile, she reached for my hair and began twirling it also, mixing my dark brown and her light blonde strands together in honey-hued spiral.

As we sat there, our heads close together, attached for the moment, a real ache came over me. An ache for things to stay like this forever, for her to want to be close to me, for her to find joy in the things we share, even if it’s just long hair.

I was once a blonde little girl. So I know she won’t stay this way forever. And even though I know there’s joy in our relationship ahead, my heart dropped a little when she let go of our hair. As the spiral untwisted, so did a little bit of her babyhood. And the ache, it got a little bit stronger.

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2008: A Year in Review

2008 was a great year for Emily and I and Mommin’ It Up! Em had a baby, I got my eyebrows waxed, and we launched our review blog! In case you missed any of it, I picked out a favorite post from each month of 2008…I hope you’ll join my trip down memory lane and read them all. Happy New Year everyone! We love and appreciate all of you!

January: I scare the meter reader and deal with mystery turd #1

February: Emily has a good laugh at my expense. Or lack of expense.

March: Emily and I hit the brand-new IKEA store in our area. And ALMOST buy the correct items!

April: Emily pops out baby Sammy, and more importantly, I don’t have to wait any longer to know if it’s a boy or a girl. GEEZ.

May: A kid on Kate’s t-ball team makes the best blog fodder. EVAH.

June: Emily smokes crack, and is therefore a much more fun mommy than I am.

July: Mystery Turd 2: Electric Boogaloo! Nancy Drew tries to solve the case.

August: An old lady pisses Emily off. Watch out, Grandma!

September: We got a hurricane in Ohio. It was WEIRD. And windy.

October: I FINALLY wean Sophie at 23 months. Oy.

November: Emily and Oprah are like twinsies. And also 83-year-old ladies are smart.

December: My lady business is perfect. (According to my OB-GYN. I’m just sayin’.)

I had way too much fun putting this together. I must say Emily and I crack me up! So…at least that’s one of us…I hope you all reminisce with me and have a laugh too!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s make 2009 a great one!

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