When my daughter first started 5th grade, she loved science. She loved math. She loved the videos and games she played on my iPad, loved seeing the way things moved when she tapped them, loved what she was learning about the world around her.
On the device, it was fun. In the real world, it was beyond intimidating.
When classtime arose, she’d find excuses to leave the room. She’d randomly need to go to the bathroom, go to the nurse, need to talk to the guidance counselor. And it’s not like her teachers didn’t see through what she was doing…. of course they did. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a young girl, embarrassed to get the wrong answer, ashamed to not have a natural ability to succeed at this super-technical stuff. This is a young girl whose fear of failure would hamstring her ability to thrive in the most productive and valuable careers in the country.
Even though my own experiences as a programmer—yep, I was a programmer before I was blogging!—helped put food on our table, she didn’t know enough about my life and how technology helped me after I was finished with school. She didn’t get to see me fail over, and over, and over again at programming and testing code to figure out what made sense and what made my head hurt. She didn’t make the connection, and never would. Mommy is Superwoman, not “the average girl” like her. She needed the message to connect in a way that speaks to who she is and what she’s going through.
That’s why, when Always and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Organization joined together to host a day of discussing what it means to be Fueled by Failure, and invited me to attend, I quickly snatched my baby out of school and dragged her all the way out to SoHo to set her down and let her hear it.
The event involved a current VP of Proctor & Gamble, a former Obama Administration director, and a current NASA scientist, as well as a current representative from the Smart Girls organization, and it was amazing to watch my daughter’s eyes light up as she listened to these adult women speak to the inevitability of falling short, making mistakes, slipping up, and using it to help you understand what it means to move forward in a smarter, more fruitful manner.
We weren’t the only ones there, either. Teen girls from across New York City were brought out for food, drinks, mentoring, crafts, and laughter as we all listened to stories of how girls can uplift one another, defend and support one another, and speak up for ourselves and each other. In other words, how to not be shrinking violets in a world that benefits from us feeling weak and fearful of advancing and making progress, for ourselves and each other.
Watching my daughter move about the room, make friends with much older girls, enjoy the crafting, listen to the stories much older girls and women told, and really take in the information, was beautiful.
…I mean, I sat in the corner with my laptop because teens give me a headache…
…I mean, just kidding… sort of…
But during our trek home, it was fun listening to her reflect on what she learned, and exciting to listen to my obviously growing baby girl talk like a young woman who truly took away something beautiful from the event.
Most importantly, she took away from the NASA scientist—who she really took a liking to, so I guess I need to find a space camp for her, oy—the importance of preparation. If you need help, get it. You can fail, but if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
So, when she returned home, it was no shock to me that she asked for a math tutor.
And I, the doting mother, obliged her. Aw.