Stubborn tears streaked down his 7-year-old cheeks. Determination to do as well as his brother at snowboarding had lead to frustration and anger coming out sideways through tears when he couldn’t quite measure up—at least not in his own eyes.

As I locked eyes with my younger son from across the room, I saw a familiar pain in his eyes—the struggle to want to succeed and do well no matter what.

He walks towards me, holding back more tears he hates to shed, especially in front of others. I pull him close, trying not to make him feel like a baby, as I whisper in his ear:

It’s your first time, bud. It’s okay to fall. Donnie’s a lot older than you. You’ll get it. It takes time. You’re doing really well.

He nods as his eyes fixate on the floor, listening to my words. He exhales as he looks into my eyes, finding the reassurance from a mother who understands what it is like to not want to ever fail.

But he’s just learning something it took me years to accept: It’s okay to fail.

It’s okay to not always be the best. Or number one. It’s okay to try and try and try again.

As I text my husband and tell him what’s happened, his response is characteristic of the cheerleader he always is for his family: Send him out once more so he ends well!

I smile as I see his words. Kyle’s a father who encourages his kids, without the same fear of failure that I have so often struggled with in my own life. My husband is an even match for me, reminding me to let my kids try and fail. He doesn’t worry what it means to fail once,  twice, or even countless times. He knows they’ll eventually succeed. He’s sure of it.

His definition of success means that you tried your hardest; you did your best. If the activity is not for you, you move on to something else, knowing you did all you could. Fully believing you will be good at something. Whatever that thing may be.

So, as a family, we keep trying.

We keep pushing our kids to explore the world around them, the interests and dreams they’ve already begun to cultivate, hoping it will teach them a lifetime of inquiry. A lifetime of learning. Of trying and failing, and dreaming and trying again.

I often tell my kids, when we speak of the future, that I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. And it’s true. I never want to stop pursuing the dreams in my heart that don’t end simply because I’ve gotten a degree, or a certain job or career. I want to always be open to the possibility of more, of something different. Something new. God-breathed. God-ordained.

And what do I hope my kids will one day say of their mama when they are grown and gone from our home?

She never quit trying new things. She never let fear stop her. She pursued all that God called her to and attempted to listen fully to his voice, never wavering from her belief that God can take failure and turn it into something beautiful. Something new. And she encouraged us to do the same. She taught us to dream, to risk, and to always try.

Oh, let it be so. I will print these words and place them in a familiar place to remind myself to never settle. To leave room for risk and for change and for life to happen along the way. To always be a girl who tries. Because what I want my kids to learn, I better be willing to model in my own life. I cannot teach what I do not know.

What are you facing today, friends? Can we all be okay with trying and failing? Don’t give up on the dreams God’s placed in your heart. They’re there for a reason.