I was reminded yesterday that when we struggle, we are in fact in the process of becoming stronger, more rounded, more amazing and whole individuals. I was speaking to a lovely friend about the challenges of being a highly sensitive child and she was incredibly kind in sharing her own experience.
It was while listening to this friend’s experience that I could see loud and bright that her own struggle and her own challenges have resulted in her being one truly f*cking amazing woman. She is someone I greatly admire and although I would never wish pain and discomfort on anyone, listening to her story made me see that her struggles made her the wonderful, powerful and truly amazing woman that she is today. And her own struggles, that she has overcome are what have given her the unique experience and skills that make her the woman she is today.

As a human I tend to naturally want to avoid struggle, it doesn’t often feel nice when I’m struggling, there is discomfort and pain, so it’s only natural I’d prefer to avoid it. But, struggle is what makes us resilient, it is what makes us believe anything is possible, it increases our belief in our own abilities or at least it makes us realise that we can try anything regardless of the outcome. But we have to engage in the struggle. Not avoid it. It’s easy to assume that being in struggle makes us weak, because we are struggling. But I strongly believe that struggle is us evolving into more robust individuals who are stronger because of the struggle we’ve come through.

To go through life without any struggle would be not to know what our true inner strength was capable of. Without being challenged and stretched we would not know our limits, we would not understand how much we can endure and we would not learn a whole heap of emotional resilience skills along the way.

BrenĂ© Brown talks a lot about resilience in her audio book The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting . She explained the importance of allowing children to struggle, because by trying to take away their struggles we starve them of resilience and of hopefulness. Imagine being a child who never got chance to keep trying, to keep getting back on the horse and practise until they finally did it! Imagine that sense of achievement that comes when after the hundredth time of trying you finally manage to ride your bike. That sense of “if I can do that I can do anything”. If we keep lowering the bar so they always succeed or step in to remove their struggles we can be taking away their biggest opportunities to grow.

Learning to fail, Learning to keep trying, Learning that we don’t always manage first time, Learning that failure isn’t not getting it right, but not bothering to try in the first place.
EVERY SINGLE TIME we “fail” at something we learn something new.
We learn how not to do it, We learn how it feels when we can’t do something, We learn what it takes to brush ourselves off and try again. In this process we also learn to hold our ego lightly, be humble and understand that EVERYONE has periods of struggle.

We all may struggle with different things but it is a fact that every human being on this earth experiences struggle of some kind and once we acknowledge that, we become more human in our response to others and their struggles too.

To believe that we are superior and that we do not struggle is where we disconnect from humanity, we stop understanding, we stop having empathy and we distance ourselves from others.
By allowing ourselves (and our children) to struggle, and to be brave and vulnerable in sharing that struggle we discover our greatest strengths and we allow ourselves to truly connect with with others.

I can definitely identify with the I’m-only-going-to-try-if-I-know-I’ll-be-awesome-at-it mentality. I see it in my daughter too. She didn’t walk solo until she knew she could make it all the way around downstairs without falling down. She was late to the party but she nailed it. The same with her speech. Barely said a word until she was 2 years and 7 months and then she started reciting the Gruffalo. Potty training…. the same, she wouldn’t entertain it until she could do it perfectly ON HER OWN.

What I’ve learnt is that motherhood teaches me so much about myself, if I allow myself to acknowledge and feel the difficult stuff and by looking closely at what I seek for my daughter. Every time I recognise myself wanting something for her I often notice it’s something I need to work on myself first. So we both end up growing together as I try give her the tools we both need.

Laytel, we’ve been focusing on practising. Every single time she gets disheartened, we turn it into something she can do, practise. Her latest thing at 2 years and 10 months (just 3 months after stringing a sentence together) is that she wants to be able to write letters and read books on her own (stubborn, headstrong & independent – I don’t know where she gets it from!).

The scenario usually goes something like “awwww I can’t do it mummy, it’s not right” to a very respectable letter E (slightly wobbly, but less than perfect). Her all or nothing, perfect or I won’t try mentality is something I’m trying to soften. It’s something I recognise so much in myself and I don’t want her to be a slave to perfect!

To go through life seeking perfection and refusing to try anything that doesn’t work perfectly the first time is incredibly unfulfilling. So we practice. She is quickly learning that practising is something she can do. Which I guess in today’s lingo would be called “growth mindset”. [It is said that children with a growth mindset persist longer when learning new skills, don’t feel as disheartened when something doesn’t go well the first time and have greater resilience.]

So we are practising a lot.

Both of us! For me I “practice painting” – when I go to art class on a Thursday evening so that I can finally get better at painting. I often openly get things wrong to show how it looks for another person to fail but keep trying. She usually says “Silly mummy, don’t worry we can try again”. I acknowledge every single time that I slip up when parenting, apologise where necessary and explain what I will do next time to improve. When we spill a drink we say that “we just need more practice carrying a cup and lets practice cleaning up”.

One thing I keep reading over and over again is that it’s one thing to teach children through words what they ought to do but they take it in so much more deeply when we show them how with our own actions. So when we try and tell them one thing but don’t ourselves listen to and model the advice, we’re sending them very confused messages and guess which one wins.
And you know what, she’s teaching me every single day that you can teach an old dog a million new tricks if their heart is open to it.

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