The gift of wonder will help us and our families to grow and thrive this school year. It may also be a particular blessing to teachers, welcoming new children about whom they may know very little, no matter what school records reveal.
There's another gift I pray for all of us to welcome this fall: the ability to fail well.
Here's the truth: As a parent, you will fail at understanding your children's hearts and minds and sometimes run roughshod over their souls. You won't intend to, but you will. Exactly as your parents did. And theirs.
As a teacher, you are sometimes going to fail students in spectacular ways. You will.
New teachers especially need to know up front that they will fail over and over as they learn the art of teaching. It's inescapable. Help them learn to say so without shame. Learn to offer help generously to "failures." Be kind.
Tell the truth. Truth always sets us free. We fail. We may as well say so. It lets other people confess it, too. We don't have perfection to offer each other. We are not God. And neither are our kids.
What we can give is our flawed selves, doing the best we can, day after day, failing well, getting up and trying again.
We can teach our kids to do it, too.
But unless we adults know and embrace failure, acknowledge it and are not afraid to confess it, even to dare to try new things we know we can't do, we're going to hurt the young ones given into our care.
We won't have any trouble seeing their missteps and failures. For too many parents, it isn't an F that indicates failure, but a C or even a B.
The pressure that a child can feel when pressured to succeed can be enormous. They too often become afraid to fail. And that makes them cautious, seeking safety and security rather than adventure, in school and in life.
Fear of failure is not an inheritance we really want to pass on, not spiritually or academically. Failure doesn't scare God and doesn't evoke God's wrath or disappointment. Failure is how we learn. Everything. In fact, it should be encouraged.
Failure results from trying something hard, something a child cannot yet accomplish. We celebrate a baby's first stumbling steps and do not take her repeated falls very seriously. We praise every new word, however poorly pronounced. We take photos to remember them learning to tie their shoes, failing over and over.
That seems to me to be the way we can best approach our whole lives. It ought to be the way we teach our kids to enter this school year, too. Celebrate the slow and uneven progress, the mess ups, the really bad choices.
Tell them the truth: "Failure precedes success. Expect to fail. The more new things you dare to try, the more you will fall flat on your face. So what? You discover what it means to struggle. Your teachers are there to help you struggle well and to fail well and to make hard things easy. It's what they do."
We need to give our kids the freedom to "dream the impossible dream."
We need to give ourselves that freedom, too, and that joy. There are still new and untried things for us to fail!