I love Friday mornings. I think it’s a habit I formed prior to having kids. I wake up Friday morning happy, full of hope and excitement. The idea of being done with work, happy hour, and maybe some kind of fun night in combination with the idea of waking up late Saturday morning to a breakfast of french toast, a fancy latte and the newspaper in hand. The excitement of Friday has never left me, even though I have three kids and the days of having nothing to do is a very distant memory. I woke up this morning with my end of the week buzz in my step, got my minis ready for the day ahead and off we went to walk to school.
My daughter loves to run often times when we walk to school she is precociously leaping ahead of the boys and I. Today while I was adjusting her backpack she fell behind. She eagerly pulled away from me, and ran to be the first one. As she left me, I knew what was about to happen, so I instinctively yelled out “STOP, NO” but it was to late, she slipped face first into a mud puddle on the sidewalk.
My initial reply was one of anger and disappointment, whenever they get hurt, my immediate response is always one of irritability. “Well, you should know better” and “I told you so” I blurt out. “Maybe if you wouldn’t have pushed your brothers out of the way, we wouldn’t be here cleaning the mud off your face,” I say. Inside I was selfishly feeling, “Great, what started out as a great Friday has now turned into crying, whining and dragging kids to school, thanks a lot daughter.”
The fact is, blunders are how we learn. I am constantly telling my kids that mistakes are ok, but sending a confusing and mixed message when I get mad at them for falling down, or arguing with one another, or cutting all of the hair off her dolls. (That’s right,it doesn’t grow back) These are opportunities for learning, for growth and when you’re 6 years old you don’t know anything, your days are full of mistakes. Sure it’s annoying and more work for us parents when they have left their beloved stuffed animal at a restaurant after you repeatedly told them to leave it in the car, but let them think it’s gone for awhile, while compassionately comforting them. Resist the urge to say, “I told you so.” By doing this, they learn on their own that life is full of disappointment if we don’t take responsibility for ourselves. If I never show them empathy for their misjudgments, they will never show themselves or others any. Becoming mature takes time and for some kids they need to learn by experience. For some, this means doing it over and over again before they learn. They are my teachers, I am learning with them. Oftentimes I need to learn over and over again, just like they do.
If I continue to be outraged at every misstep they will learn to be fearful of life, their perfectionism will stifle them, they will never take chances, and they will find comfort in doing the same things over and over again (status quo, mediocrity). When you do the same thing you get the same result. As runners we know all to well if you run the same exact pace, nothing changes. You need to go fast, push yourself and take chances to improve.
If I continue to do the same thing with my kids, I will teach them what I have spent my entire life trying to undo in myself. I am afraid to take chances. I make excuses for not going after my big dreams. I can be afraid of new ideas and change in my life. We learn these things from our surroundings, we learn to live in the dark, we are not born this way. I want my children to have unbreakable spirits. I don’t mean rude, inconsiderate, or thoughtless. I don’t mean that I never get upset or discipline them, they must learn empathy and social skills. I mean that I want them to “fall down” without getting mad at themselves or beating themselves up. We slip up and then we stand up. I want them to get comfortable falling down, I want my sensitive, tenderhearted children to be resilient without losing their empathy, love, and compassion. That combination is fierce and unstoppable.
This is my dream for them. This is my dream for myself. This is my dream for you.