When our kids are small, they look up to their parents. Not only are we bigger than they are but we have also been around the block a few more times so we are able to practice good judgement because we have wisdom.
We always tell our kids that we know what’s best for them and when they ask us for our opinion (and sometimes even when they don’t), we give it to them and preface it by saying that it comes with years of life experiences.
We offer our children advice on school, friends, choices to be made when a fork in the road is encountered, post-secondary education, crushes, hockey picks, how to make beds, fold laundry….you name it. As parents, we are the mavens on life.
But we are also the mavens on mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I have made a ton of mistakes over my brief 46 years (I am sure there are more mistakes to come). In some cases, I have learned from my blunders and in other cases…my stubbornness has gotten the best of me and I have yet to figure out what I did wrong and what I have learned as a result.
I have made mistakes in my own life journey, but I have also made mistakes in my children’s journeys. I have made mistakes in the way I handled certain situations, punishments I handed out that were unnecessary or misguided, things I said that might have been hurtful (but unintended).
I know it. I have screwed up a ton of times.
I remember one time when the kids were much younger and we were arguing with them over reasonable bed times. While my wife and I had come up with fair and reasonable times for both our children (recognizing that one is 3 years older than the other), the kids never adhered to the times agreed to. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to draw up formal and legal looking contracts with each of them that they were to read and sign.
I made these contracts look really important and told each of my kids that once they signed them that they had to follow the contracts or else there would be consequences. My younger daughter was probably no more than 4 or 5 at the time and when she signed the contract she did so in block letter with a few of the letters backwards.
My older daughter just cried and was dramatic and told my wife and I how unfair and unreasonable it was and that she was just a kid and shouldn’t have to live by such harsh rules and contracts.
She was right. The contracts were “over the top” and completely unnecessary, especially since both our kids are wonderful and they more or less go to bed in and around the same time. I have no big complaints. They are great kids and I am truly blessed.
I apologized to them both and physically ripped up their contracts and threw them away. I admitted to screwing up and I believe I have done a pretty good job fessing up to my kids when I have screwed up ever since.
When I was a kid, I thought my parents could do no wrong. I thought they were super-human and without flaws. It took many years and a little bit of psychotherapy to realize that they were not perfect, that they made mistakes and probably made some errors in judgement along the way with me when I was younger. But, its ok and I don’t have any anger or resentment towards them.
I just never heard them say, “yeah, I made a mistake in what I did and I am sorry” (at least, not that I recall. If they did and they are reading this, then I stand corrected and I am sorry).
I am not super-human…am far from perfect and even though I have amassed 46 years of life experience…I know that some of the advice that I offer up to my kids is not the best and sometimes falls short of what I intended it to provide them.
I come clean and more times than not, apologize for my actions.
Making mistakes is part of learning. You are never too old to make a mistake and never too old to learn something new from it.
Here’s to my next screw up!