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Wherein I-can't becomes I'll-try


Much to my disappointment, Sam continues to say, "I can't." It annoyed me last year. It annoys me now. How many years of my life did I live believing I couldn't, when in reality I could? How much could I have accomplished if I didn't care that I couldn't, if I would have just tried? I see so much of my self in that little kid, and I'm determined to help him avoid the self-doubt and self-loathing I grew up with.


After only a day with him, I sat him down and, in my best "I'm the adult here" voice, I told him he does something that I really don't like, and I wanted him to stop it.

He looked up at me from his seat on the couch, a look of puzzlement and worry. What did he just do that made Auntie so stern? She was laughing with me just a few moments ago.

I told him, "You say, 'I can't' when you haven't even tried. I will never ask you to do something I don't believe you can do. You're a big boy now, you're smart, and strong, and coordinated, and funny, and ticklish." I had to get my Sam tickling in quickly, before he was too worried. "You can do a lot, but you have to try."

He seemed to understand a little bit.

"So, this week," I continued, "we're going to try."

He looked uncertain.

"That's all I want you to do, is try."

Part of my heart sank when he asked in response, "But what if I fail?"

How did this kid learn a fear of failure so darn young?

"If you fail, you fail. But that won't make me, or your mom, or your dad, or Uma or Yoda or Jackson love you any less. If you don't try, you won't know if you could succeed."

"Okay," he answered, so small.

I realized my mom was watching over my shoulder. I wondered how much she had heard.

"So, this week, we'll try, right?"


Several times today I had to remind him, "What do we say when we think, 'I can't,' Sam?"

He'd answer, "I'll try."

And try he did.

He swam the length of the shallow end of the pool to the edge of the deep end. He dove to the bottom of the pool near that edge to retrieve a toy. He bounced all the way back to the shallow end when he couldn't touch. He opened a box by himself, one that he almost gave up on. He read a sign by sounding out the letters, one he told me he couldn't read.

He could. I asked him to try, convinced him to try, and he did. He tried and could.

None of the accomplishments were big, but maybe in the accummulation at the end of the week, all together, they'll be huge.