Last Thursday when I picked Lucia up from school, she surprised me by launching right into conversation. Usually the first thing Lucia does is look in the glove compartment to see if I have the kind of bar she likes (I always keep a stash of granola bars in the glove compartment). As soon as Lucia buckled herself in, instead of foraging, she turned towards me and said, "Mom, I have an ethical dilemma."
"I'm listening," I said.
"Well, we're trying out for solos in choir and I really want to try out but I don't think I should try out because Emma wants to try out too." Lucia explained.
"Why can't you both try out?" I probed, already worried about Lucia's long-term co-dependence issues.
Lucia went on, "I'm worried because the odds are that, between me and Emma, I'll probably get the solo, even though we probably both won't get the solo, but if one of us did, it would probably be me.... and I don't want Emma to feel bad for not getting the solo."
Now my hackles really went up. What the hell?! Instead of launching into the lecture about autonomy and self-preservation and healthy empathy, I stopped myself and presented Lucia with a question.
"If I were to tell you this same thing, that I didn't want to try out for a solo because I was worried about my friend feeling bad, what would you tell me?"
Lucia thought for a moment and then replied, "Well, I tried out for every single solo last year and I only got two. So I guess telling Emma that even if she fails, she has to try would be a good thing for her to know. She'll probably fail just like me before she gets a solo."
We processed this a bit more, but the ethical dilemma felt solved for the most part. The solution felt clean and clear and perfect. And, Lucia had come to it on her own which made the outcome that much sweeter.
Being a parent is hard. Trying to shield your child from pain is a natural parental response. Last year when Lucia got the solos, she was so happy and I was so happy for her. But I didn't really think about the times she didn't get the solos. The failure was just part of the journey for her, part of getting to the success.
Too often I forget this, that failure is part of the journey. I fall into the trap of wanting things to just happen. For example, when I offer a new workshop at the studio and I don't get the enrollment I want, I feel like a failure and I resist offering it again. But that's not the answer. The answer is to get back on the horse and try again. Neither Lucia nor Emma got the solo this time, but I hope they'll both keep trying.