Growing Grit: Dr. Tara’s Sunshine Push for Passion, Purpose and Perseverance

Alarm off and my 9-year-old up with time to spare.  Healthy breakfast – not too filling, just substantial enough – eaten.  Skates recently sharpened and in the more-expensive-than-my-entire-wardrobe-at-that-age Zuca bag.  Dress, make-up, fancy-hair-making accoutrements packed by my girl the night before.  Gas in car, address confirmed, GPS set.  On the highway right within our target-to-leave range of 7-7:15 am.  Well. Done. Mom.

And then, 45 minutes later, as we register perfectly on time, we get the question: Music?  NOPE.

This is how our day started.  The most important figure skating competition of the season and my chicklet’s music was sitting at home, too far away to fetch before her turn on the ice.  Her costume, her choreography, her timing, all designed around that one no-longer-accessible song.  Despite the best efforts of her coach and multiple downloads to our handheld devices, we were told no CD = no music played.

So we had to borrow some.  My girl sailed out into the now seemingly gigantic rink and took her position in front of an entire row of judges and an audience full of coaches, fellow competitors and spectators.  And she did her routine to a song she had never heard before.

Facing Our Fears: Embracing Self-acceptance & Self-compassion

How exactly the skate went, what the actual score was – these facts are inconsequential and certainly not what either of us will remember from this day.  And while I could say it was impressive that she managed to stay on her feet and even land her axel for the first time in competition, these were not the points her coach and I focused on in the post-skate debrief.  The real accomplishment was in pushing through her fear and angst to do the best she could in the face of what seemed like an unforeseen and formidable challenge.

Truth be told, I felt like a bit of a shi* mother at the time.  I didn’t want to see my chicklet disappointed over something I could have prevented.  And I worried about being judged by the moms who had crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s.  For a moment, I questioned my broken-record-like insistence on independence, personal accountability and ownership.  And then I took a breath.

Secrets of a Happy Life: Courage, Passion & Perseverance

While I wouldn’t plan for this kind of experience, I am not-so-secretly happy that it happened.  I don’t want to protect my children from failure because they need to experience it.  Failure is hard.  It hurts.  But it makes us strong and it is how we learn.  My kids don’t need to believe that I can pack their bags (or pack their lunch or take over their homework so it’s perfect or make sure they always get a trophy or…).  Instead, they need to believe in themselves.  To know that they will get knocked down, but that they are truly capable of getting back up, and in doing so, that they can learn and improve and grow.

This was a day I will not only remember but celebrate: My chicklet demonstrated passion, drive, courage and perseverance.  While we may discuss how to organize and make our own checklists, I will still leave her to pack her bag.  As I see it, my job is not to take over, but to provide guidance and love and support and encouragement.  That, and to model some true grit of my own.


Dr. Tara’s Sunshine Sidebar: Getting Gritty

Grit has received a lot of attention in recent years after being identified as the character trait perhaps most likely to predict “success” or high level achievement.  To learn more about grit and how we can help cultivate it in ourselves and others, please see Dr. Tara’s Sunshine Resources page.