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Failure, Friends and Finding your Feet

I love being a dad.  I find it the most astonishing, life-affirming, challenging wonder-filled experience I have ever known and my children keep surprising me and teaching me new lessons.

My little boy, Jacob, is 17 months old.  He’s been tentatively and briefly on his feet for the last few weeks but mostly he’s been on his knees.  He kept falling over.  Each failure to walk didn’t faze him.  He got up.  Tried again.

Each failure to walk didn’t faze him.  He got up.  Tried again.

I suspect he didn’t think to himself, “You know what, I’ve tried, given it my best shot, but this walking lark, it’s not for me.  I’m not a walker.”

The brutal reality of getting it wrong wasn’t the end of the world.  He dealt with it.  That nature prepares children for mistakes is something we seem to forget as they get older and particularly at school where we seem to adopt the attitude that we should never tell our precious little ones that they are wrong.  It’s as if we believe shielding them from the truth will somehow help it go away.  But sometimes, falling down is the only way to get up.

However, what struck me today was the influence of peers, even at the tender age of seventeen months.  Today was his first day at nursery.  He joined a class where everyone else was walking.  He came home walking.  I can’t be sure if it was the aspiration to be the same, competition not to be left out or inspiration that it could be done.  Probably a combination of them.  But whatever it was, the toddlers did something that Jacob’s mother and I haven’t been able to: encourage him to walk confidently.  And that’s what he’s been doing, relentlessly, joyfully and proudly since he got home.

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