Learn to Live; Live to Learn

​If there is only one thing that my father has told me consistently throughout my life is that he wished my brothers and I could have “learned from his mistakes”, which I totally understand. Especially now that I have my own child, I can think of a litany of things that I could explain to her NOT to do purely based off my own experiences. Things like, if your going to walk around the whole of Rome, put on better shoes than just Converse; don’t date a horse-person if you are allergic to horses; don’t touch your tongue to the inside of the freezer door; and a wide range of relationship advice that may or may not be accurate this day and age for instance don’t break up with your girlfriend over MySpace.

​ But yet, doesn’t failing help us to learn? Falling teaches us to pick ourselves back up. So to a certain extent I would encourage her to do some of these things that at first seem like a good idea but turn out to be pretty dumb. There are endless things that we can teach our kids, but there are just as many things that would be better for them to learn themselves. When you really take a look at life isn’t it just one big trial and error scenario? For those Math professionals out there I like to use the term “guess and check”. Guess what the answer to a particular situation is and then check to see if you were right or not. Then, to put it in scientific terms, collect the data and move forward with this experiment we call life.

​I was watching Mythbusters one day and I saw a phrase which I definitely apply to life. They were crashing two big trucks into one another, a head on collision, and just as an added little treat they spray painted a phrase on the side of the trucks that read “Failure is Always an Option.” Failure is always an option, I like that. Adam Savage, one of the co-hosts went on to explain that it represents the idea in the scientific community that when an experiment fails, that doesn’t mean it ends. It’s just another set of variables to take into consideration when we try again, so that we can adjust our experiment accordingly. There are very few more satisfying things in the world of spoken word than analogies.

​We can’t knock our kids either for their curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather my daughter not find out via her curiosity what happens when you stick a fork in a power socket. But there is a great emotional reward when you witness a child’s appetite for discovery (i.e. My Nephew Discovered Physics blog), and it is especially important for you to be there whether it fails or succeeds. More often than not, even though the child will realize that we SHOULDN’T put that fork into the socket, they need someone to be there for them and explain WHY, (whether it is the actual explanation or the “lightning monster that lives in the walls”).

​I want to be the protector of my children against all things, and there will not be a single moment of hesitation when I need to put myself between them and danger. But I have no choice; I must accept that I will not always be there, no matter how much I will try. Endlessly I will teach them all I can, but I cannot always pick them up when they fall. I cannot always put a bandage on a wound, and I cannot always hunt down some prick they broke her heart.

​I would rather not see my child get physically or emotionally hurt, that’s just in my nature as being a parent and good human being. I wouldn’t wish either of those things on anybody for that matter. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, its that this life is a great big adventure full of discovery, and one of the biggest parts of discovery is danger. You might get lost, you might get hurt, you might get disappointed, but you will learn, and as they used to say on “G.I. Joe”…..“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”

-B.K. Mullen
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