My oldest daughter hates making mistakes.
But fortunately (or unfortunately) for her, her mom is an expert at it. She gets lots of on-the-job training.
One of my latest slip-ups: painting my sidewalk with permanent question marks. Question marks: intentional. Permanent paint: NOT intentional.
Let’s just say that the chalk paint I bought – mislead by its placement next to the chalk boards and chalk markers AND ACTUAL CHALK -would have been better displayed near the latter half of its “chalk paint” label.
As for the question marks – my deliciously curious, detective-loving, mistake-averse daughter just turned 8, so we had a few friends over for a mystery birthday party.
So clever, right?! (I have to add this part to balance out the “I screw up” part on the way).
It worked – they solved 8 clues (because she’s 8, get it? whomp whomp) and found the hidden party! The four essential elements were there: Fun; Friends; Cake; and Kidz Bop.
Eventually the decorations came down, and the “chalk” on the sidewalk would be washed away by the pending thunderstorms. Ends tied; another one for the books.
Until the following, post-storm morning, when my husband looked out the front door and said, “Um, Jess? The question marks are still there.”
I confirmed it. The black paint wasn’t the slightest bit faded. And I can’t prove it, but it possibly darkened just to spite me.
“It’s fine, IT’S FINE.” I feign flippancy. “I’ll get some cleaner with bleach on it.”
I apply cleaner. Paint doesn’t budge.
I scrub. Paint appears to be watching me with its feet up in a hammock, smirking and mocking, “You missed a spot.” Gah, paint, you’re such a jerk.
So, like I seem to do a lot these days, I took a deep breath and thought of how I can glean something good out of this mess.
I look at my husband and kids with the smiling equivalent of jazz hands. “OK, looks like we have a new problem to solve!”
Another teaching moment. I am a firm believer that how we handle mistakes as adults teaches our children how to do it -a lesson we need repeatedly at our house.
Yes, I messed up and there are crummy feelings. And yes, it is OK to have them. But I can’t stop there. I can feel, but not get lost in the feelings. Problems are for plans, and we are problem-solvers.
Cue the “Hey kids, watch me deal with this!” (Even with losing ‘cool mom’ points, I often verbalize things to my kids as I work through them to make sure they know what they’re seeing.) They know:
They watched me make a mistake and not freak out about it.
They watched me be OK in *ADMITTING* I made a mistake.
They watched me feel remorseful about it AND find humor in it, even at my own expense.
And -THE BIG ONE- they watched me get to problem solving.
As parents, there are SO MANY teaching moments around us everyday – especially in our own slip ups, if we can humble ourselves to use them.
Don’t let a (ridiculous) mistake pass you by without at least grabbing its silver lining: use it to make the lesson –not just the paint– stick.