Failure is a wonderful teacher

Having a go is not failure

Oh, it all started so well …

The car was packed, the campsite booked and the plane would dutifully take us to Tuscany once we’d arrived at the right terminal. We’d lost about quarter of an hour fiddling with last minute bits and bobs before we jumped in the car, but that wasn’t going to make a huge impact on our 3 hour journey to the airport. What happened next did though!

After only about fifteen minutes our youngest son started to complain of feeling sick. He often felt sick on car journeys, so I smiled sweetly and reassured him he’d be fine. He continued to moan for another half an hour, until he suddenly let rip with a fountain of vomit all over himself and the car. Twice. We screeched to a halt and frantically searched for tissues and wipes to clear up the mess, but were seriously under-prepared. The poor lad stood forlornly by the side of the road in the only pair of trousers he had with him, since my husband had insisted we travel light. I unpacked the car boot and ransacked the suitcases for his one pair of holiday shorts. Graham glared at me, knowing I’d forgotten to give the boys their travel sickness pills. “We’ve really got to get on,” he urged, as I continued to wipe down boys, seats, car mats and floor. We jumped back in the car but, needless to say, we travelled with the windows open from then on.

As we pulled up to the long-stay car park, leaving the car in its newly-decorated state for a whole week didn’t seem such a good idea. But what could we do? The plane wasn’t going to wait for us while we scrubbed and polished. There seemed no option but to ask for the car park’s valeting service.


We’d never paid so much to get our car cleaned before, but a dent in our pockets was a better choice than a risk to our health if we’d left it as it was.

What a way to start a holiday, but at least the worst was behind us and we could now look forward to a lovely week travelling through the Italian countryside. Or so we thought!

The flight was fine and the in-line meal tasty, so we set off eagerly to pick up our hire car.


As Graham stood in the queue he suddenly went ashen and hid his head in his hands. “I’ve forgotten the driving licences”, he whispered. I couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe it! But no amount of mental back-tracking and re-thinking the packing would make them re-appear. We were well and truly stuffed! In that moment our hopes of rural Italian exploration evaporated. We looked at each other. It was late, we were tired and the campsite was about an hour and a half’s drive away. Our suitcases loomed at us menacingly. No. I wasn’t carrying them ANYWHERE. Graham stepped outside for a few minutes to get some air and, as he did, we both realised that we would have to bite the bullet once again and make a decision that would hurt our pockets, but not our family. We booked a taxi. It cost as much as the hire car would have done, but it got us to the campsite and to our ‘home’ for the next seven days. We all decided to make the most of the opportunities we still had. We hired bikes, enjoyed some rides, went to the beach and booked a coach tour to the Isle of Elba. It wasn’t quite the same as being free to travel when and where we wanted, but it provided yet another occasion to learn from our mistakes and take positive, alternative action.

Our boys were brilliant. They didn’t once complain, for which they both really deserve medals. They were fully aware that we had made the mistakes, yet they joined us wholeheartedly in making the best of the holiday, neither recriminating us, nor adopting a victim mentality. I hope we modelled dealing with failure well ‘cos they saw it all up close and personal. I get the feeling that my husband and I weren’t the only ones who learnt stuff this week.

If you’d like to know more about how you can use failure as one of your best allies in bringing up confident, successful kids download my FREE report, ‘Ten ways to turn failure into your best weapon’.

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