When did the stain become a stain?

Why does it seem we are more obsessed with the stain that a bloody knee creates rather than the badge of honor it represents?

It took my son all summer to skid while stopping on his bike. It came along with a few scabbed up knees and bloody pant legs. But, he was never deterred. He continued to push both his physical and mental limits.

He continued until he could consistently skid his bike on the driveway without falling. Leading up to this accomplishment, on more than one occasion, I remember becoming frustrated with the laborious task of having to go in the house get out the bandages and Neosporin, and patch him up. The first time this happened, I remember telling him, that this “accident” was preventable. I remember saying, “It’s simple, don’t try to skid, you won’t fall, we won’t have to go into the house, and we wont have to deal with this injury.” Translation: Don’t fail, mess up your pants, bust up your knee, inconvenience me, and we will be all good.

This did not deter him. I stopped myself from sharing my frustration the next time it happened. I simply did not want to communicate that his bloody knee and MY frustration was a barrier for the perfect and albeit, driveway staining skid mark. I simply could not, nor would he allow me to, stop him from achieving this goal.

Two thoughts have been spinning around in my head since this series of events began.

  1. When you are passionate about accomplishing something, you live in a state of ‘flow’, external pressures disappear, competing voices fade, focus is automatic, you are unstoppable.
  2. When we are young we view the cuts, bruises, scabs, bloody pant legs, as a necessary evil. A series of hurdles we must cross over on our way to achieving the outcome we desire, in this case, the illustrious bike skid. However as adults and passive participants, we sometimes make verbal, but subconscious judgements about the process our children and students are deeply invested in when we see them fail. We tell them how they can prevent failure. We try to stop them in their tracks.

This same tale manifests itself in our classrooms and schools more than a few times each day. Our students fall down. Our colleagues bruise their knee. We deliver kind words, we try to help, but do we then unintentionally disrupt their ‘flow’? Do we treat their bloody knees as a frustration for us? Or do we allow our students to wear the stain proudly like a badge of honor?

Honor the process. Achieve flow. Reflect on what it took to get there. Revel in the victory. Rinse. Repeat.

Stains represent our journey, our flow. We try to prevent them, but we shouldn’t. They shouldn’t be washed off.

Wear the stain.

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