Daughter, Make Mistakes!

She is crying, my 14-year-old daughter, on the sidewalk in front of our house. This is where we met when I returned from my almost-anxious walk to her school a few blocks away to look for her. She did not come home after practice as expected. My walk back – knowing she wasn’t at home or at school—was not fun. 

“It was a mistake!” she insisted. “I am sorry and it won’t happen again…” 

Then she goes on in an attempt to strengthen her case in case I feel the need to ground her for not calling. She brings up her often-tardy older brother and then suggests I am unreasonable and then that other kids don’t or that other kids do or … 

“Shut up,” I say. 

She snaps her head up and looks at me then, surprised I would say this to her.

“Just shut up. You had me at mistake. Stop there. No need to make excuses or place blame or any of that nonsense.”

Now I tell her what I hope so very much she can hear, really hear.

I want you to make mistakes. Making mistakes is the birthright of the human experience. Making mistakes is not only inevitable but it probably the most valuable tool in building a life which is uniquely our very own. Make mistakes. 

Don’t make the primary mistake of fearing mistakes. Fearing mistakes, we stop moving ahead and sit down and complain that we keep getting run over or we are not where we would have liked to be. Do not fear mistakes. Learn from them. Notice you keep making the same mistakes? Yay you! Now you have to power to choose instead to make new glorious, thrilling, splendid, terrific mistakes!

There is no shame in making mistakes. Know that you will. Trust that you will. Count on it and then look for them until you begin to develop the ability to spot them easily, stop in your tracks, call them out for what they are, back out quickly and then go a different way. Think of making, recognizing and correcting mistakes as a skill to be appreciated and embraced and celebrated. 

Don’t fall into the trap so many of us make of denying our mistakes and, instead of being honest, insisting we are right and so riding that mistake all the way to hell for sometimes decades in a doomed attempt to validate our flawed decisions and save our pride or stroke our ego or some such rot. 

There is no shame in making mistakes. The real harm comes from our stubborn refusal to live the true nature of life—one riddled with mistakes along the way like rusty guardrails to keep each of us on our own roads.

Cop to your mistakes but don’t attach. A mistake is something you did – not who you are. It is the very fact of you as worthy of trust and considerate of others that caused your Ma to become concerned when you did not act according to your own awesome standards. 

Let your mistakes teach you. Spotting mistakes quickly and just as quickly adjusting your course to go in a different direction will become a beautiful skill over time. 

You had me at “mistake,” Sweet Daughter. What an honor it is for me to watch you grow.

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