Failure to Launch

Years of preparation and millions of dollars went into the Apollo manned lunar landing program.  Apollo 11 landed on the moon but it actually came after a long line (20 or so) launches, both manned and unmanned in the Apollo-Saturn program.  Apollo 1 never left the launchpad because of a cabin fire during a rehearsal launch killed all three crew members. Other launches were cancelled or deemed unnecessary.

From its official inception to Apollo 11 it took at least 10 years, but when you include the planning, training, and prior projects it took the greater part of 30 years and would be the primary work of countless scientists, engineers, and technicians for their entire adult career.

I have often wondered when NASA considered the program successful.  Was it when it got funding? Was it with the first successful launch? Was it the moon landing? Was it when Apollo 11 touched back down?

I think there are strong comparisons for parenting.  When will I know if I’ve done a good job raising my kids? Is it when they obey in public? Is it when they understand the Gospel? Is it when they get married, or graduate college, or leave home?  When did my parents know (or do they know yet)?

Part of the struggle here is that there is no defined time in American culture when being an adult is passed from parent to child.  I was blessed with a ceremony of sorts in which my parents officially passed off the responsibilities to me (though I often return to them for advice and aid).  But even with that feeling like an adult didn’t happen overnight.

It is as if people in our culture expect that when someone turns 18 or graduates college or gets married a magical switch flips and they will become mature.  I often time hear Baby Boomers complain that Millennials are entitled and immature, but mostly Millennials are their children.  The over-protectiveness of Baby Boomers wanting a life that was better for their children has often resulted in a sever lack of real world consequences and decision that are a necessary part of becoming an adult.  Note that I said a necessary part of becoming an adult–not being an adult.

The complaint that children have failed to launch can often be traced back to having never been placed on the launchpad to begin with. Man would have never made it to the moon without some astounding failures first.  A person cannot become an adult without experiencing failure.  Let me repeat–a person cannot become an adult without experiencing failure.

While I am still working through what it means to parent through them, I have written 5 Axioms that helped me realize what it means to be an adult.

  1. You have to stand for something. In order to be an adult you must find something that is important to you that is greater than self interest. Until you do everything you accomplish if worth exactly what you stand for–nothing.
  2. You have to be willing to fail and accept responsibility for it.  Anything worth doing is worth failing at.  Anything worth failing at is worth taking responsibility for.
  3. You cannot live alone.  People were meant to be in community and when we isolate we are unable to see our own faults and we are not challenged to grow.
  4. You assign value to things–things do not have inherent value.  Money is only important if you value the things money can buy.  The perfect job is only important if work is where you assign value.  You can make less and be happy if you value time and community more.  It really isn’t that expensive to live if your priorities are straight.
  5.  You can ask for help.  The refusal to ask for and accept help shows an incredible childishness.  If my four year old asks for help an adult would consider him mature to know his limits, but somehow when we become adults asking for help is childish? No. Know your limits and ask for help.

Now, if only I could figure out how to parent these things. . .

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One thought on “Failure to Launch

  1. Josh, we are so proud to be your other family of grandparents. You and Katie are doing a great job of parenting and being role model for our three precious great-grandchildren.

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