“Oops, sorry,” And “uh-oh” seem to be two very common words in a child’s vocabulary. In fact, “uh-oh” was in the “top ten” of first words spoken for each of my children. It was my nephew’s first word, which he mastered at only eight months.
I thought it interesting how children are so aware of when they make mistakes and blunders—which are such a common part of childhood. Children strongly sense our acceptance and approval because it is a need for them to feel accepted and loved; they also recognize the lack of those, especially when they make mistakes.
It’s easy to get frustrated when the same child has made the same mistake, yet again! However, we have to understand that our reactions to their mistakes will develop into their reactions at their mistakes. If we view childish blunders as “the end of the world”, or respond sharply or angrily, they will learn to fear mistakes, and will grow with a mistaken view of that state called “mistake”.
When we do something wrong, we usually hope no one noticed, and we jump at the chance to start again and do it right the next time around. How much more so should we give our kids the chance to try again, without judgment or labeling?
As a child, I was freaked out about making mistakes and screwing things up. I remember one summer when we went for a weekend camping trip. We were at a table with some friends we had made in a room with 50+ other tables, all full of vacationers. I knocked over my glass of orange juice and it spilled on my new friend’s plate of food. No one even reacted strongly or harshly but I was so mortified that I began to cry and it took me a few minutes to compose myself. I can’t remember how I first developed such a fear of mistakes, but it was deeply ingrained. As a teen, my perception slowly changed and grew into the fact that mistakes can be learning experiences and failures can be stepping stones to greater things.
When I became a mother, I hoped my children would never have that same fear of “failure”, but would have a healthier perception of it. I tried to encourage them and adopted a simple saying in our household of, “It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”
We had visitors over for dinner one evening when the inevitable happened. My daughter, who was four at the time, spilled her cup of water. She was stunned and looked up at me. I jumped up for a towel without saying a word. By the time I got back from the kitchen, our guest quipped a few words to try to liven the situation. It had the opposite effect and I saw the tears forming in my daughter’s eyes. I remembered that moment of mortification from years back and wished I could save her from it.
“Could you help me wipe the floor?” I asked her, giving her something to do. “You’re real good at cleaning the floor.”
She smiled and got off her chair. “It’s okay. We all make mistakes,” I whispered as we cleaned the mess together. The rest of the dinner proceeded without incident.
The next day, when I spilled some water in the classroom, my daughter was quick to say, “It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”
We do, and we always will. When we realize that and treat mistakes as such, we help our children gain a positive outlook on “failure” and give them the power to try again.
(A “repost” from 2011)
Congratulations to our winners: Gaby (73 likes), Helen (72 likes), and Charlotte (71 likes)! It was so close! I wish everyone could have won something because every story is so special. Every memory. Every moment.
I so enjoyed reading these memories and reflections on mothers and memories from childhood that I’m thinking about writing some posts with memories of my childhood.
The idea also developed with an assignment from my photography class. For the final assignment, my professor said we can choose one subject and take 20 photos on that theme. My immediate choice (naturally) was my children. Then I began to wonder, “What kind of pictures should I take?”
The concept began to form: take pictures that coincide with my own childhood memories. Images began flooding into my mind. Eating ice cream while sitting on the back of a station wagon with my siblings, running through sprinklers, playing shadow tag, moving the lawn with a push-mower, pillow fights and raking leaves, fishing, jumping on a trampoline. So many iconic flashes. I hope I can capture them all.
More than that, I hope that my children are developing images of their own. I pray that special memories are forming in their minds, things they can carry with them always. To remind them of being loved.
Because no matter what else I might have to offer, or might not have … one thing I can unequivocally give my children, one thing we can all offer our children, is love.
The love of a parent. Imperfect, yes. But somehow unconditional. Somehow transcendent and beautiful and enduring. Even if it’s all we have to offer our children … it is enough.
It wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t actually even something I really wanted to do at first. More than anything, it was necessary at the time.
I enjoy being a mom. I enjoy teaching my kids. In fact, I had every intention of educating them at home. After all, my mom had done it, why couldn’t I? There are all kinds of pros for home education, such as being able to teach your children according to their particular learning style, recognizing their talents and proclivities in order to help them build stronger skills in those areas, being able to spend more time focusing on areas that need a bit more attention, and many more!
I never had much practice in early childhood education. I felt that those who teach younger children need a certain skill set that I personally lacked—an enthusiastic and playful nature. Once they reached a certain age, I was confident in my ability to teach. I was privileged to have friends and other experienced mothers who spent a lot of time with my daughter during that “early education” stage. They gave me flash cards, fact cards, math dots and storybooks; they referred me to some great educational websites; they taught my daughter songs and verses.
It was August of 2010 and my daughter, Jessica, had reached the stage that I was actually comfortable in teaching. She was in the middle of second grade, and was doing remarkably well. Then everything changed. We had been in the planning-to-move-across-the-world stage, planning to make the big step in November, when we were suddenly—and somewhat rudely—informed that my husband’s visa would not be granted, because I was not living and settled in my home country.
“Moving as a family sometime at the end of the year” rapidly changed to “moving with my kids as soon as possible”. Once we arrived in the States, it was necessary for me to gather as much “proof” as I could of the fact that I was here to stay.
The plan was, in fact, conceptualized on the way from the airport to my parent’s house, as my dad drove and I began to doze after a 28-hour journey without sleep. He mentioned that my sister was very happy with the school she sent her kids to, and that he would be happy to cover the tuition fees for that first year for my daughter to attend. My first reaction was, “No, Dad. We couldn’t ask that of you.”
A few days later, I met my sister and she told me also how great the school was. My dad repeated his offer and we met the teacher and principal of the school. Within two weeks of arriving in the States, my daughter was enrolled at Faith Baptist Academy, and we had our first “proof” towards my husband being able to join us. In the meantime, my father drove her to school on his way to work. My sister looked after her in the afternoons until my dad was able to pick her up in the evenings.
My husband was able to join us within two months, and Jessica’s education at FBA continued.
Yesterday evening was the school’s awards ceremony. My daughter had been sick pretty much the whole last week of school and barely finished her last test on the last day, a few hours before the ceremony. I wasn’t exactly expecting what took place, nor was my daughter.
She was actually quite embarrassed and reluctant to step forward time and again to receive certificates for the highest scores in nearly every subject, and the highest GPA in the school. I kept having to encourage her to go up, whispering to her to please smile, and assuring her that it was almost over.
At the end of the ceremony, a few friends and acquaintances came up to congratulate my husband and me, as parents, mentioning that we must be proud of our daughter and that we must be great parents. All I could think of was: it really wasn’t us.
It was my dad, who made it possible for her to attend.
It was my sister, who took care of her so many afternoons, on top of taking care of her own kids.
It was my friends and co-workers from India who spent so much time teaching her from the time she was just a baby.
It was the great and inspired teachers at the Academy who pour their time and effort into every child who attends, and has attended, that school.
And it was Jessica, who woke up early every school morning, overcame her timidity at meeting new people, learned the new study skills needed, and applied herself to keep plodding along until the year was done.
Most of all, it was God, Who gives gifts and talents to everyone, as unique and varied as each individual is. Some children might “walk away” with awards; some might not receive even a tiny bit of recognition, but each one is special and gifted in His sight, created for a unique and divine purpose. Our task, as parents, is to encourage our children, love them, pour into them as much as we can, and be open to new opportunities, even if it isn’t what we originally had in mind for them. Who knows? It could be something even better.
(Photo taken by Joel Rockey)