“My ‘a’ looks terrible,” my six-year-old mumbled during our handwriting lesson. Failure. It’s something none of us enjoys. But it’s something we all experience often, especially when we are learning a new skill. How do our children respond to failure?
In his talk “Critic to Curator,” author S. D. Smith explains the difference between posture and gesture. Posture is our default. It’s our normal. It’s how we interact with the word regularly. Gesture is what we do sometimes. So what is our posture towards failure? Do we expect it? Do we try again? The Gaines family says, “Some people tell themselves they are no good at something after one small failure. But no chance were we going to give up that easily.”
The Gaines family has learned through failure. And as with most good things in life, gardening certainly involves failure. In their gorgeous new picture book We Are the Gardeners, the Gaines family writes, “Some say that a garden just grows from seeds, but we think it grows from trying and failing and trying again.”
From there, the family unfolds their own story of growing a garden through trying and failing and trying again.
This book also highlights the power of naming things. Near the end of the book, the family experiences gardening failure. They wonder if they should give up gardening altogether. But they remember who they are: We are the Gardeners. Isn’t this the way we all begin again after a failed attempt? We remember our true nature. We come back to our true name. I hug my Kindergartener and say, “It’s ok to draw some squiggly ‘a’s’! Keep working on them. You’re a learner. Your ‘a’s’ will look better if you keep practicing them.”
I love the Gaines family. I love that they allow us to glimpse their failures. And I love that they show us how they care about each other. What is seed for their gardening adventure? Dad’s love for Mom. He sees a plant in the store and thinks Mom will like it. How does Mom receive this gift? With gratitude. Chip and Joanna Gaines show us how love and gratitude can become the gateway to cultivating beauty and joy in this world.
This book is simply gorgeous. From the illustrations to the cloth-bound spine (in my favorite shade of green!), this book invites us all to share in the wonder of hard work and the real-life miracle of gardening. The Gaines family challenges us to expect failure. And to not allow failure to keep us from the joy of growing beautiful things together.
What is your attitude towards failure? What is your posture towards hard work? Are you a cultivator? Let’s all be gardeners.