Last weekend when I was riding my bike, I took a break to call  and check on my kids. My 10-year-old daughter was impatient for me to come home, as I had promised to help her make a pie for a 4th of July event. When I told her I had over an hour left on the bike, my resourceful child begged me to let her attempt the pie by herself. Naturally, my immediate response was no, only to be met with, “But I’ve done it tons of times with you, Mom. I can do it. Pleeeeeease?”

I flashed back to my 10-year-old self, making meals for the family and baking on my own. Maybe a solo attempt to bake a pie wasn’t such a bad idea for my daughter. The worst that could happen was that I would have to clean up a big kitchen mess. “Okay,” I said. “Just have your brother help you with the oven.”

When I returned home, I found a beautifully baked crust, no filling, a clean kitchen, and a sad little girl. She had wanted to make a cream filling, but it didn’t turn out right so she dumped it down the sink. She was cleaning up the dishes when I walked into the house after my ride. There was no mess, but no pie either.

Before my heart had even finished breaking for my daughter, I pulled out a fresh set of ingredients and told her to find a clean pan. We set about making a new filling–she measuring and mixing, and I overseeing and guiding. Throughout the process, she told me what we did differently this time and she was able to recognize where she had made mistakes in round one. Soon enough, we had a luscious coconut cream pie with a mile-high meringue on top. I have one plucky little girl.

Did I want my daughter’s solo attempt to end unsuccessfully? No way, but in hindsight I realize that by giving her room to fail, both of us learned so much more than if I had hovered over her from the start. She gained the confidence to try–and try again. She learned that she could stumble and still recover. She learned not only to make a good product, but also where the pitfalls lie so she can avoid them the next time. Most of all, we both learned that failure doesn’t mean the end of the world.

Letting go taught my daughter far more than she’d ever learn from following my directions. Maybe the best way to help someone grow is simply to give her room to fail.

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