From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Red-Letter Failure Day

Failure is delay but not defeat.
It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.

William Arthur Ward

Whenever I need help being a mother, I remember my mother and grandmother, women who planted seeds of wisdom in my soul, like a secret garden, to flower even in the bitterest cold.

On one particularly bleak day, I came home to find a “not so polite” second notice on my gas bill, and all three of my children almost down for the count.

Tommy, 11, suffered from a bad haircut. “My teacher took my ball cap away ’cuz gentlemen don’t wear hats in the building.” He’d endured remarks like “baldy” and “skin head” all day, he told me, as he hid his head with both hands.

Lisa had made the finals of her second-grade spelling bee, only to lose out on the word afraid . The irony was not lost on me.

Jenni, in first grade, had been chastised for her nervous giggle at the reading table and snickered at for stumbling over a sentence.

“Well, kids, what we have here is a Red-Letter Failure Day. Let’s go celebrate!” Shocked out of their gloom, they watched me closely. “My Grandma Towse always used to say, ‘We learn more from our failures than from our successes. The more a stone is weathered by troubles, the farther it will skip.’ Let’s go to McDonald’s for our first Failure Party.”

That led to many great failure parties, and we learned to look for what we could celebrate from our tragedies, rather than agonize over what we suffered. I hope I’ve planted seeds in my children’s souls, gathered from the wisdom of the women before me, to be scattered in their own gardens someday.

Judith Towse-Roberts

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