This is a phrase my wife has recently used several times with our children. When I first heard it, it immediately struck a chord.
As a child, most things seem a little hard at first – tying your shoes, getting your own breakfast, reading a book, riding a bike.
It is by only by doing these things ourselves, that we eventually master them and what at first seemed hard eventually becomes second nature.
It is to easy to forget this simple lesson. In the name of expediency, we answer the call to “tie my shoe”, “get me breakfast”, or “read to me?”
Our lack of patience denies them the opportunity to overcome a struggle and independently solve their own problems.
Ironically, we at the same time, serve them empty pabulum that “nothing is impossible” and “they can do anything.” This is while we simultaneously deny them the skills necessary to achieve even the most mundane goals.
“You can do hard things” is a realistic invitation to meet life where it is – right in front of you.
Life, after all, is hard and as Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “nothing worth having comes easy.” So day-by-day, we work to do hard things. When we master each, we feel rewarded and energized to take on the next hard thing. This is a fundamental part of learning, living and growing.
Conversely, well-intentioned calls like “nothing is impossible” and “you can do anything” can ring hollow. For those of means, it seems like an entitlement (since we may have shown them that things will come to you regardless of your effort).
It is also a little tone deaf to those who face constant adversity. Their lives are filled with hard things and everything seems impossible and overwhelming considering their circumstances.
For different reasons, it creates unrealistic distant expectations when what is needed are smaller invitations for mastery.
My youngest daughter loves baking shows and occasionally helps us in the kitchen. But until recently, she treated breakfast as if she were in a diner – ordering what she would like as her parental waiters obliged.
On Wednesday, she poured her own cereal, spilling just a little drop of milk in the process. Smiling she looked up and said, “see, I can do hard things.”
One day a bowl of cereal, tomorrow maybe it’s tying her shoes. Whatever the next hard thing is, she will be just a little more prepared to tackle it. And that I suppose is all we should ask.