Autumn is upon us and with the change of the season comes back to school. As a parent, I worry about my kids and that worry spikes a bit at the beginning of the school year. I worry whether they have manners when they’re needed, I wonder if they’re inclusive when they play with others, if they’re kind when no one’s looking, if they’re happy, if they feel heard. I worry about all the things I can control and all nearly lose it when I realize that really, I have no control at all.
My 7 year old went to robotics camp at RIT this summer. He loves robots, and has talked about them ceaselessly since he learned to speak. The first day he came home he told me about one of the kids on his team punching another one in the face. I panicked. There is so much out of our control. How do I teach him to befriend the kids that aren’t punching other kids in the face without demonizing the kid that does? (If you figure this one out, let me know)
On the car ride home on the third day he was more tired than usual. Later in the evening he told me he didn’t want to go to camp the next day. When I asked him why he told me it was because it was too hard. He told me he was really struggling with the programming, and that he was falling behind because he was trying so hard to figure it all out. He told me he was shaking when I came to pick him up. Shaking from mental exhaustion and frustration. The last thing he told me was that he didn’t want to go back because he didn’t want all the other kids there to see him struggle, like that was the worst.
I sat him down after that and we talked about how important it is to keep trying, to stick with it and to never give up on something we love. We talked about struggle and how it’s a part of life. Most importantly, I told him it’s okay if people see us struggle. If we stumble but don’t give up, and the people around us see, they learn that it’s okay for them to do the same. Instead of being a laughing stock, we can be an inspiration. I can’t think of one person I look up to that hasn’t fallen face first in the dirt more than once. It’s not the falling that counts, it’s the getting back up.
So, the next day he went a n d he had a hard time again. We talked again about never giving up, about perseverance. On the last day, there was a competition between the teams and his team took first place, I’ve never seen such a smile on his face. After the competition, awards were given out and he was given a certificate for being a “great programmer and for never giving up”. I’ve never been more proud. When things got tough, he hung in there. In a group of kids he didn’t know, he wasn’t afraid to work through it, he fell down and he got right back up again.
As the school year begins, I hope he can hold on to what he learned during his week at robocamp. I hope he remembers the pride he felt in himself when he won that competition and saw his work pay off. As for me, I’ve learned that we may not be able to control what happens to our kids, or who they hang out with, but we can have the hard conversations; we too have to work for what we love and if we let them see us struggle a bit along the way, it may just do us all some good.
By Kate Vantucci