A Perfectly Good Mistake

I’m coming to the realization that I’m not very good at science experiments.  In fact, almost every experiment we’ve tried has failed miserably.  Breathtaking, amazing, how-is-that-even-possible? failure.

I chalk it up to my three insistent distractions – after all, it’s rather hard to read and follow directions when someone is being murdered, copious crying is going on, or the 2-year-old is drawing his own sleeve tatoo.  Washable marker doesn’t live up to its name, by the way.

This image is our latest failure: growing sugar crystals.  As you can see, crystals are growing, but not on the wooden skewer.  We even have crystals growing on the sides of the glass … but not the skewer.  I’m just that good.  Or bad.  However you want to look at it!

On one hand, I’m irritated and annoyed.  On the other hand, it’s a perfect life lesson for my gifted kiddos.  They hate failure.  It’s personal.  It’s debilitating.  It’s throw-the-toy-on-the-floor-and-stomp-away inducing.  Sure, they’re still little and these kinds of reactions are “normal.”  Well, like most gifted kids, we don’t do “normal” very well.  We’re passionate, involved, and we take failure personally.

So when mom screws up the science experiment, the focus isn’t so much on the experiment.  No, it’s more about me.  How do I react?  Do I throw toys?  Scream?  Fall down on the floor crying?

I am a bit older than they are!  No screaming, but a certain amount of exasperated muttering is normal.

I scrutinize the contents of the glasses and announce that since this didn’t work, perhaps we should try doing X next time.  Those key words: next time.  The kids blink.  They didn’t think we would try again.

I’m cheerful and resigned to failure.  I admit it, but I don’t dwell on it.  It didn’t go as planned.  So what?  We still have crystals to look at (and eat, as they remind me.)  We’ll do better next time.  And kiddos, you better believe there WILL be a next time, because I will NOT let a bag of sugar defeat me.

If anything, I’m probably not a good role model because I refuse to accept failure.  I’ll stubbornly keep trying even when it’s obvious that maybe I should move on to something I’m more suited for.  Bull-headed is a good descriptor.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t pass that genetic bobble down to my kids.  They’re stubborn for sure – but not about accepting failure.  Stubborn about doing the work in the first place.

I had to laugh about this tonight.  My old, dead photography blog gets more daily hits than this blog.  Without doing any work to it.  I find that hilariously, ironically funny.  And I’m not really bothered by it (except the part where I’m not doing any work to it versus doing all the work here.)  I’m too darned stubborn to give up.

Despite being momentarily defeated tonight, I’m still blogging.  I’m still doing what I do because I’m too darned stubborn to do anything else.  And that is a far better lesson for my kids than a chunk of sugar crystals on a skewer.


  1. We did this with copper sulphate. It was in the days of proper 1980s chemistry sets before health and safety ruined them. ? I’ve still got the crystal somewhere.


  2. Sorry to say, but the science experiments seem to go worse as they get older! At least in my house. Did a whole Physics unit with my now 12-year-old and I don’t think any of the experiments actually did what they were “supposed” to do. Ah well, as you so beautifully reminded me – there is definitely as much learning and and more character development when the electro-magnetic coil isn’t actually magnetic and the crystals grow on the glass!


    • Ouch! The electron-magnetic coil sounds hugely disappointing! Glad I could put a positive spin on it 😉


  3. Love this! Thanks for the reminder to “fail well” – something I’m working on too. Oh – and even though this blog may get fewer “hits” , for the people you encourage it is life-empowering. So glad you keep going!


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