As a parent, I’ll admit that I’m scared of my children making mistakes. Of course there are different levels of mistakes, ranging from minor inconveniences to the catastrophic. So I guess it’s more the catastrophic kinds that I’m referring to. The kinds of events that could jeopardize their future. I have friends in the neighborhood with kids of varying ages. And when I hear about some of the challenges they face as their kids get older, it does nothing to calm my anxiety. I used to think that the older my kids got the easier they’d be. And in some regards that’s true because they are more independent. But on the other hand, bigger kids come with a bigger set of problems.
On Friday I got a call from the school nurse. My daughter was playing flag football at recess and wasn’t wearing her gloves. Her hands were swollen with white patches, so she was concerned. I happened to be meeting with the pediatrician that afternoon (a story for another time), so I said I’d pick her up so I could have her hands checked. I was livid that my daughter was playing outside in less than twenty degree weather without wearing her gloves. A nice pair of super warm gloves that I bought at a specialty outdoor retailer for just such weather. I had talked to my daughter before about wearing her gloves. Sometimes when we’re out and about she’ll shove her hands in her pockets. I guess that’s OK for a brief trip into Target, but I’ve told her it’s important to protect her skin in the extreme cold.
I picked her up and her hands looked better. They were pink and the blood looked to be flowing. But there was still a purple, swollen patch near her palm that worried me. So I figured as long as I was meeting with the pediatrician, we may as well have it checked. When we got into the car she burst into tears. She was terrified that she had frostbite. I told her I didn’t think that was the case, but reiterated that’s why she needs to wear her gloves. As it turns out she was fine, but that incident scared her so much that I know I’ll never have to worry about her making the same mistake again.
There’s something to be said for allowing our kids to make mistakes. I think often times as parents we try to avoid them experiencing pitfalls or worry about them making errors. At least I do. And I don’t think I’m alone.
I feel like we live in a society where there’s a fear of failure.
But learning from our mistakes is critical to growth. I know I’ve made countless mistakes and each time I think, “I’ll never do that again.” Someone can tell you something countless times, but the lesson carries that much more meaning when you’ve experienced it for yourself.
Of course there are situations where it makes sense to avoid these pitfalls. Things that involve physical harm, safety hazards, long-term implications, etc. But I think mistakes can be a powerful learning tool. I’m going to keep this in mind the next time I want to swoop in and “save” the situation. Like with homework. I’m constantly on my daughter about doing it and then putting it in her backpack. But I bet if she forgot to do it once that would be the last time. I’m working on trying to be more hands off. I will embrace the mistakes I make as a parent and do the same for my children. I think it’s critically important for their growth and learning how to manage disappointments and failures. Often times we want to shield them from those things, which is really a disservice.
We all make mistakes. The key to growing is how we learn from them.