Menu

I tell my kids it's okay to fail—so I need to start telling myself, too

Maybe if we actually believed the things we say, the entire structures of our lives, vocations, and relationships would feel less tenuous. We'd believe that even if they got knocked down, we could put them back up just the same as before but with the weaker areas reinforced, stronger in the long run.

I tell my kids it's okay to fail—so I need to start telling myself, too

I made a mistake a few weeks ago. I double-booked myself, and it wasn't just a coffee date. My double-booking meant that one way or another, I was going to disappoint someone close to me. I was embarrassed and so disappointed in myself.

I told this story to my best friend and she responded (as she always does) with grace and empathy. "I feel like you're describing my life," she said, "so I'll tell you what I'm sure you'd tell me. Everyone makes mistakes like that sometimes." She went on to say that she was beating herself up for a similar error but listening to me tell my story reminded her to offer herself the same grace she was offering me.

When we care about people, we gladly and generously share the encouragement and truth they need in moments of struggle or weakness. We offer solidarity and a "me too," and we believe these things for them. So why is it so hard to believe them for ourselves?

At 1 year old, my oldest son Ian received a set of magnetic blocks for Christmas. They've gone on to become one of the most used toys in our home—the boys can spend hours every day building towers, houses, and cars. The thing about Magnatiles, though, is that they are a bit wobbly. You can imagine what this is like for a toddler with chubby hands and a limited understanding of physics.

If Ian's structure fell, he would always scream, knock the rest of it over, and throw himself onto the floor in a fit. He's grown past this a bit, but now my youngest has taken up the habit. So, wherever you find Magnatiles in our home, you'll likely find my boys' tempers lurking.

We spend a lot of time talking about how it's okay when things fall down. That we can rebuild, and that sometimes it's just the nature of the game. We talk about taking deep breaths and trying again. And again, and again, and again.

Once, while I was still pregnant with my youngest Leo, Ian grabbed my hand and sat me down on the living room floor. "Build big house, Mama, pwease," he said. I'm no architect, but I set out to build the biggest house our stash of magnets would allow. I didn't have the exact pieces I needed to make it sturdy and I kept bumping it with my clumsy hands. (The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, perhaps.) The fourth or fifth time I knocked it over, I let out a loud, "Ughh!"

Ian looked up at me and said, "That okay, Mama. You build new house!"

A few weeks later, the same thing happened. I made a batch of meatballs to serve with spaghetti, only to realize that we didn't have any pasta sauce in the house. In moments like that, I am likely to succumb to the inner critic who says that I will never be able to get my act together, can't remember a simple thing, am terrible at this housewife gig. These small mistakes reveal that I am still struggling with perfectionism in the worst way.

Just minutes before, Ian had been dancing around the kitchen yelling, "Hooray! Yummy meatballs! Hooray!" I looked at him and said, "Ian, we can't have meatballs. I forgot the sauce." I expected a meltdown, but he looked at me and gently said, "That okay, Mama. You no need be sad."

I wish I recorded videos of those little moments, so I could play them back for him in the future. Every time he knocks over a block tower, can't sound out a word, or doesn't make the team, I could gently remind him: "Try again, sweet boy."

Each time he grows frustrated, loses hope, and needs to be reminded of who he is, I can remind him: "Deep inside, little man, you know the truth. Failure is fine. Mistakes are good. Let's try again. You are brave. You are loved. You are enough."

I know that in those sweet moments, he was mostly mimicking me. He heard me offer those same phrases many times before. Today, he tells his little brother not to worry, only to quickly follow up with his own frustration-fueled meltdown. But you know what? I think there's value in the mimicking. Maybe if that thought—it's okay, deep breath, try again—crosses his mind every time a tower falls, he will eventually internalize it. The deep breaths and second chances will become second-nature, as much as a tantrum is during the terrible twos. I have hope.

This is the thing about parenthood: I need the reminders as much as my children do.

Motherhood helps me recognize my own weaknesses while learning to help my children avoid the same pitfalls. I don't want failure to derail my boys and their sister the way it often has derailed me. I want them to know their identity is not molded by their achievements, friendships, or reputation.

Maybe if we actually believed the things we say, the entire structures of our lives, vocations, and relationships would feel less tenuous. We'd believe that even if they got knocked down, we could put them back up just the same as before but with the weaker areas reinforced, stronger in the long run.

We'd step less gingerly around for fear of knocking them over. We'd build with enthusiasm instead of the fear of making mistakes along the way.

You might also like:

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less
Life