Try and Try Again


One of the greatest joys of the holiday season that especially starts in November with our Thanksgiving celebration is that we get to spend some extra time with our nieces and nephews, as well as our daughters.  We come together for a number of meals and outings when they all visit during these last two months of the year, when school is out and the days are more relaxed and carefree.

Because this allows all of us the opportunity to be among children more, we are privileged to hear more about their perspectives and interests and funny ideas.  We celebrate their musical talents and read with them and play with toys and are sometimes even invited to follow them on their grand outdoor adventures.  Their perspectives on nearly everything are worth at least a moment of an adult’s time.

Perspective-taking is a wonderful tool for an adult as it helps us see the big picture or maybe just a clearer picture of where we are and what we are thinking and what needs to change…or just stay the same.  And I guess because perspective-taking has been on my mind, it is what I noticed most among the children in our family as they conversed with each other and us grown-ups throughout the final weeks of 2013.  Here are just a couple of examples:

One night, our nine-year old nephew Zachary remembers that when he was 7, his tae-kwon-do instructor would say, “Zachary, you can try by yourself or I can help you until you get it right, which would you like to do?”  Zachary said, “I would always choose to try it by myself and, one time, I actually did it on the first try!”

On another night, our oldest daughter Emily and her handful of piano students, all under the age of 8, were presenting their annual Christmas recital, a time that it surprisingly full of this “I think I can” spirit, this optimism.  These kids were so proud and so happy and so sure of their abilities.  Though not one of them is a prodigy at the piano, and all of them had their share of mistakes and pauses, but nothing, and I mean nothing, could deter their smiles nor their belief that they are pianists.  It was amazing.  There was one little girl who played nearly every note so slowly that you could barely tell what the melody was supposed to be, but when she finally finished she turned and smiled this picture-perfect smile and bowed as though she were winding down her first concert appearance at Carnegie Hall.

There is such optimism among these children, such a “can do” attitude. We see it all the time as they try and try again without a moment’s thought that failure is even possible. And even more interesting is that they haven’t yet learned that they might be failing.

Instead, they see failure in an entirely different light. They see failure as simply a way to find out what didn’t work. What a novel approach to life in general.

Try and try again. Who knows what you might even get right.

‘The Stormy Day’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and spaghetti with salsa; but he did not like stormy weather. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico was pedaling as fast as he could. What had started as the most perfectly sunny day of the year was now nearing complete washout status, which was bad enough for a kid who just wanted to ride his bike, jump ramps and sail over potholes that sat like craters in the dirt road that led from his home to the ancient barns on the other side of the field. Now, impossibly large drops of rain hit like bombshells on his helmet and the noisy sounds of a storm brewed somewhere in the otherwise blue skies overhead.

BF Bike 2

What worried him was how far the front door of his family’s house seemed from where he was on the dirt road. If he didn’t make it home before the storm hit, he was certain that he was doomed.

Baby Frederico had always been afraid of storms, in particular the sounds of thunder that boomed and sometimes shook the walls of the house and the flashes of lightning that stole into its rooms and worried his imagination. If the family’s radio was on, it would crackle and hiss and an alert would sound that a storm was brewing. The noise of it all was more than enough to worry him.

Another clap of thunder rattled through the air as Baby Frederico slid his bike across the lawn in front of the house and dropped it square in the middle of his mama’s favorite flowerbed.

As he raced up the steps, he could feel his heart beating and head sweating. His Papá was just opening the front door to call him in and the two slammed into each other.

“Whoa mi hijo, are you alright?” said Papá.

“Yes. I mean, sorry. I…” Baby Frederico couldn’t bring himself to say it, but his eyes told his father exactly what was wrong. He was scared and his dad knew it.

“Stay out here with me for a bit” said Papa. “That way we can keep an eye on this noisy storm together.”

Baby Frederico was reluctant, but since the storm had not yet fully exploded over the house he agreed to sit. They chose the porch swing, one of their favorite places to read and think and wonder together. By now, the wind had picked up and the old swing began to sway out of control. Baby Frederico laughed as it reminded him of a wild bull at the rodeo.

“Weather like this always gets me thinking about how I used to be scared of storms,” said his father. “Then, one day, I noticed something unique about them. Have you ever heard a really good piece of music and, because you loved it, you listened to it over and over again?”

“Yes, of course.” Baby Frederico loved music and enjoyed all kinds. He knew his favorites by heart.

“Well,” his father continued. “Storms remind me of music. The more you listen to them, the more you can pick out the different instruments, the different rhythms, the song. Listen with me to (dramatic pause) la tormenta…”

Baby Frederico took a deep breath, just like his dad always did in these moments, and listened. What happened next was the biggest surprise of all…

The rain was heavier now and the tin roof above them met it with the sounds of a thousand drummers beating the life out of their snares, the thunder crashed with the sounds of a million cymbals meeting each other for the very first time, and the wind rushed around them as though all the world’s violinists were playing an entire song in unison. It was stunning – a free concert in Baby Frederico’s own front yard.

And Baby Frederico noticed something else, he wasn’t so scared anymore.

He looked at his father, “Papá, let’s sit here awhile. I’m beginning to like this song.”