When our oldest was starting kindergarten, the parents were invited to an Open House to meet the teacher and get insight about how the whole school thing went down. I don’t remember a lot of the details of that night, except sitting in too-small chairs and nibbling bad cookies with twenty five other nervous parents, all wondering how in the world it was time to start the circus that is school, and yet excited to get on with it.
The teacher was low key and calm, a classic New Englander who fit the state where our girl began her coed career. She gave us parents a piece of advice that caught my ear that night, and proved itself invaluable over time. The teacher told us it was very important as adults to show our children that we make mistakes. She went on to say that at this age, our children were attempting so many new things and were bound to spill a lot of juice, break some toys and hurt themselves along the way because they were trying to be just like their parents. As adults, we know that we mess up all of the time; we spill liquids and break our toys and hurt ourselves, but we quickly clean up our messes or throw away the evidence and look like we never make mistakes. Huh.
I listened to this sage advice and started to point out some of my mistakes to the kids. We have moved a lot through the years, so getting lost is commonplace for me, but our children didn’t realize that until I shared it with them. From this information, they learned that it was no big deal to make wrong turns, and that we always made it home at the end of our adventure, no matter how far off course we had gotten. I would spill something or burn dinner and make a big deal of showing the kids what had happened, and talk through how to avoid it next time while teaching them to clean it up. They thought it was hilarious that I made mistakes, and really, it often is. Why do we spend so much energy trying to give the impression that we have it all figured out? What if we spent more time pointing out our own shortfalls and weak areas and what we have learned from walking with a limp, instead of covering up our mistakes and scars and giving the impression that it was all intentional. Maybe we would teach each other from what we have learned, or even model that although we don’t fully understand yet, we are still trying to learn. I guess all I needed to know really was taught in kindergarten.