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When my son was young, he went through a phase where he really wanted to ice skate. So, my husband and I got him skating lessons, and some skates (and a HELMET, oh my god!). 

At his first lesson, he fell about 1000 times. I watched anxiously and sort of shuddered each time he fell. I wanted to rush onto the ice and rescue him from the cruel cruel instructor who kept insisting that he get up off the ice. But I didn’t. (Mostly because I didn’t want to fall either.) 

After that first lesson, I asked him how he thought it went. He said something like, “It was fun. I mostly learned how to get up off the ice today.” 

If you’ve met my son, you know he is wise, but his way of thinking about his first lesson taught me something for sure. 

Instead of “I can’t skate”, he was thinking, “I am learning how to get up when I fall”. And all the while, all I could think was that he was having a miserable time being uncomfortable because he wasn’t skating.

Mind. Blown.

There’s so much great stuff out there on resilience and grit and how important these qualities are for survival and success. We read all about them. We understand their importance.

And then, when it comes time for our child to try something new (and possibly fail at it), we want to jump right in to help and make sure that they are comfortable. We want to save them from:




Injury (of pride or body)

Doing it “wrong”

Having to learn “the hard way”


But here’s the rub: every achievement that truly belongs to a person is on the other side of all of those (sometimes painful) feelings. And do we really want to deprive our children of achievement??

If I had “rescued” my son during that first ice skating lesson, not only would he not have learned to skate, but he would have learned that feeling uncomfortable is bad and to be avoided at all costs.

That’s the opposite of grit and resilience.

There’s a reason they call it “grit”: it implies the presence of an irritant. A challenge. An obstacle.

There’s a reason they call it “resilience”: the word implies a “bouncing back from something”. 

If we never allow our children to face an obstacle or push back from adversity, they literally cannot develop the very skills we know they need to thrive as adults in the world.

Discomfort is required.

Failure is required.

Now, before you go all, “Yeah, but….” on me, let me be clear. Overwhelming discomfort that pushes someone into fight/fright/freeze/faint is NOT what we’re talking about here. Overwhelming failure that is actually insurmountable is NOT what we’re talking about here. 

We wouldn’t ask someone who had never exercised to run a marathon. But we might ask them to walk to the corner and back. To run a mile and back. To run 5 miles and back.

You see how this goes?

Particularly as regards Orchid Kids — kids who are working a little bit harder than the average kid to learn and to be in the world — we want to make sure that their obstacles are set at a “just right challenge” level when we can. 

But that doesn’t mean they don’t need challenges. That doesn’t mean they don’t have to feel discomfort sometimes. That doesn’t mean they don’t fail. They DO. Just with more precision, more forethought, more planning than some other kids.

PS – No, my son does not skate for the Capitals, but he does know how to skate without falling down. And he enjoys doing it. 😉

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