A Pool of Failure

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So much wisdom.

Very little comes from Dad.  Most comes from the tiny voices in the back seat. 

Thursdays are swimming days at the Olive Tree School. My little Tali packs her regular school bag with tiny books and a big snack. And on Thursday she fills an extra pack with a suit, towel, flip flops and a few trinkets that have nothing to do with swimming but just seem to go where she goes.

Typically for Tali each day is the best day of her life. I am not sure how that works but for the first 7 years of life each day has surpassed the previous, claiming the “best day ever” title. 

“It was awesome, Dad.” 

“Yeah, what was so great?” I probe.

In the pool they put these big things and we ‘hadded’ (past tense of ‘had’, of course) to get them in the deep end where it’s deep.” 

“As opposed to the shallow end where it is shallow?” I query for clarification. 

“Yeah, where there is a lot more water,” she continues. 

She delves into detail now as I focus on the road. 

“I tried and then I tried again. And I still couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. I tried so much.”

Now if you are like me (foolish, I mean), you will expect a “failure to triumph” Disney conclusion. I fully expected her to explain that after tireless effort, she swam across the pool, collected whatever big floaty things she needed to collect and reached the other side of toil triumphantly. I wholeheartedly expected to reinforce her story with a standard Papa preaching wisdom affirming success as a byproduct of effort and persistence. I was going to give her the proverbial pat on the back for her conquest. 

But then she said this. 

“Yeah it was awesome. I never could do it. It was too difficult. It was so fun,” she beamed. 

Beaming in failure. What kind of kid are you? Don’t you know that only winning matters. That failure is misery and joy only blesses the victors? Have you no shame, celebrating failure with a toothless smile? 

Those darn big floaty things that neither of us can remember the name of (if they have one) needed to be recovered in the deep end and they are still floating there untamed.  Those foam props triumphed and are gloating in a chlorinated festival of freedom at my daughter’s expense. 

Failure is not awesome.

Or is it?

How many times as a father do I have to rewrite my instructional manual? Every time I think I have an idea of what to do or what to say, my kids change the rules and I am back to the playbook baffled. 

How many times have I missed ‘awesome’? 

How many times have I missed the point that missing is the point?

The sport and parenting purists will tell you that winning is the only thing. That losing is for losers. But then again those barking about succees do not drive my daughter to school. 

Apparently for those taking notes (as I was in the driver’s seat), swimming is fun. Yup, awesome, really cool fun. 

If you happen to collect the big foamy floaty things in the deep end where the water is deep, then good for you. If you don’t, jump in the back seat. Join us in Spain, where tomorrow is going to outpace today for the “best day ever.”

“Were you frustrated?” I asked, still in disbelief that failure was so frivolously fabulous. 

“What does that mean?” little Natalia responded. 

Exactly. What does that mean? How silly of me. 

Like I said, so much wisdom. 

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