letting them fail

Our oldest son has permanent writer’s block.

This is especially painful for me, not only because I have very little patience but because writing seems so easy to me. It’s certainly easier than long division or ALGEBRA. Oh, so painful.

“Just write down what you are thinking. Write it like you’d say it to your best friend,” I say.

He still sits there, tears welling up, fingers twisted into his blond hair.

“I can’t get started. I’m just so stupid. My friends say I’m smart, but I’m just so stupid,” he said tonight, in the final hours before bedtime, the night before his writing project is due, a week or more after it was assigned.

I gave him every idea I could think of to jump-start the writing process. But for some reason, this kid just doesn’t think this way. He is our scientific, math-minded son. He’s just not that creative. He’s not wired that way. And I need to accept it.

However, there’s only so much I can take of the procrastinating (gets it from dad) and the whining (who’s he get that from?!?). At some point, we as parents just have to step back and LET THEM FAIL.

I came about a minute away from forcing him to put his unfinished papers in his backpack. I told him we were done, and that if he wasn’t going to take any advice (even Middle Man, his 6-year-old little brother, was giving him ideas of what to write-and they were GOOD IDEAS!), he could wrap it up for the night and turn it in as-is. Unfinished.

This made him cry more.

I just kept thinking … at what point do we force them to fail? At what point is it OK to allow them to fall and not put out our hand immediately to help them back up? I came to that point tonight, and I think he felt it.

He put pencil to paper and came up with something. The writer in me wanted to make it even better. But in a way, it was just perfect. He stood up to the challenge and kicked it in the butt.


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