It was fun learning and building electrical circuits (definitely not when I was in school) along with my seven year old and his friend. I will never forget the joy of seeing the little LED light not only switch on but staying on. Having blown just a few LED lights before, the thought that we could make a working circuit was immensely satisfying for all of us. In fact the book that we followed to learn electronics had, in a step by step fashion, taught us how to blow up the LED light. Yes, you read it right. I was taught how to fail right at the start of the book. It did feel painful to trash a few LEDs into the bin first by me and then by my son and then by his friend, but then, we wanted to learn how to fail in the right way. So RIP LEDs.
Today evening, as the night lights went out a random thought made me think about the fused LED lights lying in the dust bin. I wondered why the author made us learn how to short circuit the lights before teaching us the correct way of making the circuit. Why was it so important to fail before we succeed? Was it because the joy of succeeding is always much more when we have failed multiple times before? Or was it because this was the best way to learn the importance of a resistor in a circuit? Or perhaps, because, some lessons in life are learnt best from failure than from success.
No sooner than this thought was in my mind that I remembered a conversation with my daughter some days back, urging her not to fail in a task at her school. Our conversation had been something like this, “Please finish it on time. Please ensure that files are saved properly. Please write in a way so that the teacher can understand your handwriting. This is an important assignment. ..”
My mind stalled for a few seconds. I felt numb, maybe something like the LED light in the bin. Was I not being a good parent protecting my child from failure? Was I not being a good parent making sure she succeeds? Was I not being a good parent saving her from pretty much the same mistake I have committed multiple times in my life? Isn’t this the role of parents, to teach children how to succeed? The answer I got back was, “Yes! I was not being a good parent trying to protect her from failure because failure is not a bad thing. The number of lessons hidden in failure are far more than in success. How could I expect her to succeed if she hadn’t learnt these lessons. How could she build a fool proof circuit if she had never been allowed to blow a few LEDs? Even if she did succeed in building a working circuit the first time, what was the guarantee that she would be able to make more complex, heavier circuits in life without understanding the importance of things life resistors? When, I was happy making my own set of mistakes when I was under 20, why can’t I let my daughter fall when she is barely 14? What I learnt in over 40 years of falling and picking myself up, I want her to learn in under 20 and that too without falling even once. Why? Why am I so scared of her failing? Don’t I trust her to pick herself up if she fails? Don’t I believe that she has what it takes to learn what needs to be learnt? Don’t I respect her ability to choose for herself?”
I must admit, my mind has slowed down with age. With so much of introspection, it almost went into a shut down mode. I knew I was wrong to coach my daughter on petty things but was I ready to accept one more failure? Was I ready to sit back and let her blow up her own set of LEDs? Could I truly enjoy the process of failure both for her as well as for me? Maybe not, but honestly if I truly trust her abilities and her spirit, I have to provide her own set of LEDs, resistors, wires and rest of the paraphernalia so that she can play with it the way she wants to. It is her life and she has every right to blow or build the circuit she likes to.
Until next time, wish me happy failing and learning.