Dear sweet Katie.
Of all the things I've saddled you with either genetically or through intense exposure, your fear of risks and your absolute refusal to do something until you know you can do it well is the first one I'd wish away if I could. It's who we are, it's how we learn, and it's what makes us who we are; but if I could turn the dial on it down from "super extreme insanity" to just "cautious" I think we'd all be better for it.
Last week we went roller skating for the first time at a rink. We got there earlier than our friends which was good since it gave you and Jorge a chance to try out every pair of skates in your size and attempt a few laps. When it was just the two of you--both pretty much completely new to wheels--you laughed at your own wobbles and cheered for each other and yourself at each new inch of rolling.
Then two more friends arrived, CJ and her brother B. They had skates at home and used them almost daily. In no time they were swinging around the curves of the rink and lapping you handily. You both looked on with awe and respect.
Finally, two more friends (both boys) arrived; also total newbies. They wobbled and fell, slipped and slid, flung out their arms, and sprawled on the floor. All in good fun.
But the problem came an hour later. The two other boys and Jorge were all gaining speed and distance--going a 1/4 or even a 1/2 lap of tentative swooshing before tumbling over themselves into a heap. They'd dust off, straighten out their legs, and push off again, only to end up in a heap thirty seconds later. But if you weren't watching closely, it looked like they were really skating--and they were!
But Katie, my heart, you clung to the wall. You still quietly cheered for yourself with each careful improvement and you were intensely focused on form and technique. When I checked in with you, your voice only wavered a little when you told me you were getting better, and then I watched your heart break as one of the boys rolled by.
I pointed out the "party zone" and asked if you thought it would be fun to have a birthday party here sometime. A quiet blinky head-shake told me no. "What about if one of your friends had one here? Would that be fun?" A shrug. "Maybe if it were one of my really good friends, then I'd come." Hmm. "So, like, if it were CJ?" A quiet shrug and a yes, followed by "well, actually no. Because she probably would invite friends who know how to skate." and then the tears came.
I held my gazelle-on-skates and let you cry. Oh, the heartache. And then I asked you to watch--really watch--the boys. Skate...skate...skate...fall. Laughing and re-setting. Skate...skate..fall. Up again. Skate skate skate...skate...fall.
Here's the deal: If success is measured as how often you don't fall, Katie, we're champions. Because we rarely take the risk of falling. Jorge is a physical learner which means he runs out into the middle and just tries things. If someone tries to explain form or technique or offer a suggestion he generally ignores them until he figures it out himself. And when he falls, or breaks his wrist, or slices into his hand or busts his lip open--he learns (a little) and keeps on throwing himself at that wall until he gets good enough that it looks like he's actually doing it. And he is, but his learning comes from being willing to fall. It's not always pretty, it's not always safe, but it's generally fun.
You and I. Oh, dear. We'd rather read about it in a book. Better yet a whole library of books. And watch a video or lesson. Practice it in theory a few times. Learn the mathematics and physics of it--anything but try the real thing before we're confident in our ability to do it and do it well. And on that count, Katie, you were soaring. You had the form and technique. You didn't fall down one time, and you got around the rink at least a dozen times. But you weren't having any fun. You were paralyzed with fear of falling down, looking silly, getting hurt--of being anything less than the best right off of the blocks. For us, anything new is a threat to our shiny Crown of Success which we wear so carefully on our always alert heads.
But I promise you, dearest Katie, that your crown can take a few dings, and that holding your head that high is just exhausting. Let go. Jump in. Get a few scratches and bruises. Learn to laugh at yourself and dust yourself off and jump back in again and again (and again!). When it comes to driving a car, I'll fully 100% endorse the careful academic learning process--nothing less than perfection allowed. But otherwise, dear girl, be willing to let go of the wall, give yourself a push, and just see how great it feels to soar between the falls. I'll hold your crown.
Better yet, I'll hold your hand and fall down with you if you want.