Photo by: Pri Walker

By Letting Him Fail, He Truly Succeeded

by Pri Walker
Photo by: Pri Walker

I let my kid fail.

I’m a horrible parent right? Because who doesn’t want their child to succeed?

This started when my son decided he didn’t want to practice for his new belt test for karate. And with that laziness, had the attitude to match it. It was a rough start to what I hoping to successful school year. I was already defeated.

So as his class graduated to the first coveted colored belt, he stood there with tears welling in his eyes, not quite understanding why they were getting a new belt and he wasn’t. He tried to hide his shame when he understood that he wasn’t moving up with them.

Admittedly, my heart shattered into a million pieces as I watched him sheepishly try to hold strong. But I had to remind myself to hold my ground, there was a valuable lesson to be learned here.

“It’s not fair,” he finally cried as he walked up to me after class. “They all got a new belt and I didn’t!”

“Well,” I found the right words, “they all practiced really hard for something they really wanted. They probably all went home every night and perfected their form. They put on their uniform and were ready to go to class before ever being asked. They listened to their parents, followed direction, and showed them all that karate is teaching all of you to be.”

“They wanted this more than anything in the world,” I finished explaining to him. “Did you?”

Yet there was no getting through to him. Not here, not right now. But I knew he would eventually get it because there’s always beauty in the breakdown.

Before we left his dojo that evening, I made sure he congratulated his teammates on their achievement. He shyly went up to them and high-fived them for their first belt upgrade. They grinned and thanked him with pride, and slowly I saw something start to change in him.

He smiled too.

He started to beam back at his friends and feel their elation for this accomplishment. He was as excited as they were for their own success. One single act of selfless love had taught my kid a huge feat in that moment—and that was humbleness.

Life isn’t always about your own victories. There are great, beautiful moments all around us that don’t always happen to us. To be humble enough to accept that you can celebrate someone else’s success without feeling envy is such a beautiful lesson to learn. We easily learn to want more for the wrong reasons. True success is being the best version of yourself while building others up too.

So what happened next was nothing short of a miracle.

“Mommy, when we get home I want to practice my form,” he proclaimed as we walked to the car. “And I’m going to be very good and try really hard for the next test.”

And that he did. He came home and practiced and practiced … and practiced. He was centered, he was persistent, he showed us how much he wanted this for himself.

The same behavior happened for the next couple days. And then weeks. Something inside of him had shifted. Not only did he realize what he really wanted, he realized what he had to do to get it. There was a light that was glowing brightly and it was his own; his true grit was showing.

It usually feels easier to give up than keep on trying. But in this moment of not allowing him to get what he wanted, he instead showed us who he wanted to become. We saw that through all this hard work, his commitment to improve and transforming into the best version of himself, he truly wanted this.

About a month into this new behavior we scheduled a private test for him. We knew he was ready, but we also knew it wouldn’t be easy. A sport where he is constantly surrounded by his peers, he would now be performing on his own. He was on centerstage and boy, did he perform.

In that moment I saw my little boy grow up. He was shining, and you could see it. And in turn, I was beaming. He smiled through the whole test, and at the end of I don’t think his smile could get any bigger as he earned his first colored belt.

He wore his yellow belt proudly to his first new class and shined as bright as the sun. He was congratulated by his new classmates and high fived the same way he did to them a month before, in the middle of his despair. He got his first feel of true success, and I knew it was a feeling that wouldn’t soon leave him.

In fact, I saw that it wouldn’t. A month behind in new lessons and he jumped in with that same eagerness to learn.

He’s not meant to fail. What was initially a hard lesson to understand, became a jubilant story about all he can achieve. He can do anything he wants when he puts his whole mind, body, heart, and soul into it. I’ve made my beautiful little boy a more fruitful person for showing him who he truly is.

Pri Walker is a based out of Orlando, Florida, where she indulges in all the simple joys that life has to offer. She along with her husband and two young children are avid world travelers, fun seekers, and always yearning to learn through experience. Her passion to write comes from her love to get lost in a good book.

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