It’s that time of year again…when students who want to vye for a Student Council Officer position run their campaigns: create posters, prepare speeches, record them and hope for the best.
As I recorded several children giving their speeches, I was touched by their earnestness and jitters. It’s impossible for all who run to win, yet they are all – each of them – winners.
If there’s one thing I think we don’t teach our children enough (at home or school) is that it’s OK to try, to take a risk and not reach our goal. That it doesn’t mean we’re failures or that we ought to be ashamed.
It might sound like common sense to you.
Yet the words “loser” and “ashamed” are so pervasive in our culture. And “risktaker” denotes a type of reckless stunt person.
Risk-taking is the only way we grow, and it often includes some degree of pain.
I went rollerskating today. It’s one of my “flow” activities: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defined flow activity as being in the groove or “in the zone.” It’s when you’re so utterly absorbed in what you’re doing, that time passes without regard.
I’m skating and happy when an older gentleman gestures for me to come to him. I relent. I’ve seen this guy before, he’s a good skater. He looks like a slender Santa Claus – easily in his 70s. I’m curious.
“When you move forward, move your skates outward, not backward. Do you know why?”
I answer, “I’ll go faster?”
By now, I’m miffed that he’s telling me how to skate better when I’ve been skating for nearly 40 years. But I listen. I’m curious.
I consciously skate outward. It works!
“When you turn, bend your left leg. Lean into the turn. Don’t lift your right leg.”
This takes me a lot more focus. I realize I have a hard habit. But he’s right. My upper body is much more stable. It feels better.
My resentment is just a whisper now. But it’s there. He hangs back. I smile in appreciation.
He doesn’t try to talk to me for the duration of my skate. I focus on my newfound skills and realize…after 40 years of skating, I learned something new!
If I had gotten defensive and refused to listen, I would not have learned.
We need to be receptive in order to accept constructive criticism. And this receptivity is in our control.
When I was in fourth grade, I went rollerskating every Friday night. Every Friday night. My mom dropped my sister, brother and me to the rink and left for a couple hours and then picked us up. Sometimes, she stayed and waited, hand bag slung over her arm, watching with worry. (Thanks, mom!) After awhile, my sister and brother didn’t want to go, so I’d be dropped off alone. When I first started, I fell. A lot. I held onto the walls and fell and got back up. Pretty quickly, I gained my balance and before you know it, I was the fastest skater out there. I couldn’t get enough of it. Overhead, we had the disco ball, the strobe lights, the BeeGees! It doesn’t get much better than that, people!
I still go rollerskating now, four decades later. My daughters won’t go. They don’t enjoy it. Neither does my husband. So, once again, I skate alone. I go hard for an hour and then I go home.
I went today and many kids were using this, in record numbers:
One boy using a skatemate fell and his dad ran out on the rink (with shoes on) and picked his son up. He ran behind him, pushed him gently to give him a bit of acceleration and then he left the floor. Not much later, his son would fall again. Out came dad, running to pick his son up. Mind you, his son was about 9, probably a fourth grader. I was impressed by the father’s sprint, his unwavering attention to his son and his intention. Clearly, he cared. But maybe he cared too much about the wrong thing.
I’m pretty sure his son is going to take a long time to learn how to rollerskate. I mean, what with the physical crutch of the skatemate and then the mental crutch of being constantly rescued, he doesn’t get to practice much.
Learning often necessitates frustration, time and yes, pain. But the rewards are well worth it.