Baby Steps: Lessons in Failure

When he first started crawling, he went backwards. It frustrated the crap out of him. All that effort to get the awesome cat in front of him, and there he is going backwards.

Learning to walk has been more like playing pinball with his head. He stands up all the time for practice. Then falls over. Sometimes he stands up under tables and hits his head on those. He gets good at walking, and uses this as an opportunity to run headlong into furniture.

As a parent you know these things have to happen. You try to minimize the damage. You pad the furniture, call warnings, chase him around like the guy with the trampoline under someone trying to jump off a building.

But there will be bruises, because lessons hurt.

It seems obvious that failure is necessary for a baby. Yet, between age one and age twenty we come to believe that failure is avoidable. We think it’s permanent. Failure becomes a character trait.

No one would tell six-month-old crawling backwards she’s going in the wrong direction in life. No one buys a wheelchair for a seven-month-old who hits her head on the table because she can obviously never be trusted to stan


d again. An eight-month-old who runs into furniture doesn’t give up on walking for a less risky occupation.

It’s more complicated later, but from whose perspective?


Baby steps have more to teach us about failure than success. Oh wait, they are the same thing.


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