I’ve spent a good part of this past week learning about energy and electricity. This unit of study was not my choice, but the by-product of quizzing my daughter in preparation for her science test. And while I enjoyed re-learning the finer points of energy and electricity, I enjoyed far more making connections between the physics lessons and real life. The idea that some resources are finite (time) and some are infinite (love); The idea that if you can reduce resistance, you can substantially increase the amount of energy that you transmit; The idea that some materials (people) are conductors of energy and others are insulators; These ideas all rolled around in my head quite a bit this week.

Of course, no study of electricity is complete without leaning about some of the greatest innovators in the field, including Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent lightbulb. Edison received only a few years of formal schooling, with. most of his education taking place at home, under his mother, who it is said allowed him to follow the ideas in which he was most interested. Not surprisingly, he was most interested in chemistry and electronics and performed countless experiments in the lab he set up in his home.

As an adult, Edison became a prolific inventor, and even set goals to have minor inventions every 10 days, and major inventions every six months. Perhaps what I find most fascinating about Edison is his seeming complete lack of concern about his failures along the way to his successes. It is said that he developed over 3,000 theories in the process of developing the incandescent light, and tested over 6,000 fibres before he found the best one for the filament in his lightbulb.

This post isn’t meant to be a physics, or history, or biography lesson though – it’s meant to be about the role of the parent and how the concepts of energy, electricity, and invention can be applied to the real world. As a parent, I have to use the finite time I have with my kids, and the infinite love that I have for them, to guide them and to teach them, and to encourage them to follow that in which they are most interested. Of course, the temptation as a parent is to remove as much resistance as possible for your kids, and to insulate them from any and all failures or negative experiences. But we have to resist these temptations, and instead focus on supporting our kids though each their failures, of which there may be many, while hoping that with each failure they come closer to finding their own kind of incandescence.

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