Dear mom… you’re right.
My daughter is 6 years old and in the first grade. Every day after school, I open her backpack to check her folder for any worksheets that have been sent home or papers that might need signed.
Last night, this particular paper caught my eye. My initial reaction was something along the lines of, ‘Wow. Look at her printing! She’s doing such a great job!’, but then I looked closer and realized she had missed a point due to forgetting a period at the end of the sentence. ‘Hmm…’, I thought, ‘her skills were nearly flawless with the exception of this minor punctuation error’.
Fast forward to this morning when I was talking to my mom on the phone and telling her about my daughter’s worksheet and this petty period.
“You know, mom, It’s fine. Seriously, I know it’s not a big deal but can we just acknowledge that it’s a little bit annoying that she received a minus one? Her printing was perfect. Her spelling was perfect. Everything was perfect but because she forgot that dang period, she got a minus one.”.
Cue a long, careful pause… and then my mother responded:
“Yep. She did do a great job… but here’s the thing Kayla, that minus one helps set the expectation that sometimes, there are things that need to be fixed. And that’s ok! It’s really ok. It’s learning… and that’s why we go to school. With that said, I know. You want them to be perfect. I get what you’re saying… But still, wouldn’t you rather teach our children to understand that sometimes, there’s something else they need to learn? …rather than make them feel like they HAVE to be perfect all the time?”
At the expense of potentially hurting my feelings, my mom was teaching me a lesson here about the lesson I needed to be teaching my own daughter. …and thank God for that because you know what? She was right (because duh, mom is always right). But seriously! She was right.
My basic human instinct as a parent and as a mother was to instantly defend my daughter and as a result, I almost missed the lesson.
The powerful reminder that yes, we as parents, all strive to protect our children and give them the world and make them feel special and great and all the things… but far more important still, is the importance of being careful about that because we also need to make sure we’re teaching our children that the expectation is not perfection. In fact, the expectation of perfection will likely do nothing but set our children up for failure and self-destruction.
We want our kids to understand that there’s always going to be room for self-improvement, development, progress, betterment, change, and growth. It’s unfair to expect a 6-year-old to be perfect. It’s also unfair to expect a first-grade teacher to ignore mistakes and pay only attention to the strengths of her students. It’s even more unfair to think or assume we should know it all. Because we don’t. Nobody does.
You know what’s hard? Everything.
You know what’s easy? Nothing.
You know who gets it right the first time? No one!
The only way we learn from our mistakes is by realizing our own mistakes.
My mom chose to respond to my frustration with raw honesty and careful, constructive feedback. It would’ve been much easier for her to simply agree with me but she chose to sacrifice the potential of hurting my feelings in order to try to teach me a bigger lesson.
If that missed period hadn’t been brought to my daughter’s attention, it’s likely she would’ve forgotten it on her next test. Her teacher did good… and I bet next time, she won’t forget her punctuation. If by chance, she does forget it again (because remember here – we all make mistakes)… there’s no doubt I’ll be better prepared to respond more appropriately… all because my own mother took the time to point out an opportunity for me to better understand a mistake I was making.
It was a reality check… a powerful reminder that mistakes are ok.
… and that moms sure do know a lot.