When the lesson sticks (literally)

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.

2 thoughts on “When the lesson sticks (literally)

    • Rachel says:

      Um.. totally meant this comment for the post about William’s funny sayings. What in the world did I click on in order screw that up- good grief. Anyhow, I love this post! What an excellent point! And I am sorry about your walkway. If it is any consolation… I haven’t really even noticed it.


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