I don’t know about you, but I can be pretty opinionated. (Nah! You? Really?) Shocking, I know. And I don’t necessarily like when those opinions are wrong. And I certainly don’t like when those opinions are challenged by the crew, and I find that indeed – I am wrong. Owning my mistakes and admitting to them is tough enough, but admitting to the crew when I’m wrong feels even more uneasy. We live in an ends-oriented society that believes “right-ness” is imperative and that admitting error puts us at risk of manipulation. So we do what we can to be on our guard, particularly with our children. No, I am not weak. Yes, I know what’s best for you. No, I am never in disagreement with the other adults in your life – we support each other’s decisions 100% and never question each other in front of you. Ever. If there’s one thing I know, the requirement to be right all the time is exhausting, impractical, and impossible.
The power to own our mistakes and grow from them results from being connected with our inner wisdom, and it requires the humility to admit that we don’t always know what’s right. Sometimes, we are truly misinformed, and make an incorrect and ill-informed assumption. But at other times, we are mean, petty, or short-tempered because our own needs aren’t being met. At the end of the day, our children stand the most to lose, because they are smaller than we are, and they are still learning that they deserve to be treated with respect.
Guess what? You will be wrong, and you have the responsibility to admit it to your children! When we admit that we are wrong and make restitution for our mistakes, we communicate to children that they are more deserving of our integrity than our feigned omniscience. They learn to live with integrity. When we admit to our children that we are wrong and make restitution for our mistakes, we model a dynamic of power – one that hinges on authenticity instead of might. They learn to be authentic. And, perhaps most importantly, when we admit that we are wrong and make restitution for our mistakes, we are ourselves released from the expectations of perfect performance. They inherit freedom to fail. What a gift!
True wisdom is knowing when to listen for the wisdom of others – especially the wisdom from our children. When we force our children to do something that their bodies are telling them not to do, we teach them to ignore their body’s wisdom. As babies, when we rely heavily on things like bouncy seats, swings, and exersaucers, we teach infants that their body’s wisdom about movement is foolish. When young children demand to get dressed “MYSELF!”, and we overpower their desires in the name of expediency, we teach that those desires for autonomy are foolish. When preschoolers won’t sit still! for our planned, scripted activities, but we force them in the name of “education”, we teach them that their natural curiosities are foolish. If we want to raise wise individuals, we need to start by listening to the inner wisdom that children offer. And when we are wrong, we would do best to admit our errors and seek restitution.
And now, for a story.
The crew was out for a walk yesterday, and Tekoa found some super-cool tar sealing the cracks in the sidewalk. And while we crossed an almost deserted street, she (distracted) lingered behind. I grew angry, partly from fear (what if this was not an abandoned street?!?) and partly from impatience (it is almost lunchtime! Ignore the tar!). I went back and pulled her (too firmly) by the arm, practically dragging her across the street. I reacted, and later, I felt sorry.
Me: “Tekoa, I’m sorry. I was worried about your safety across the street, and I grabbed your arm too tight. That wasn’t fair. We should always work to be gentle, even when we are angry.”
Tekoa: “Yeah. It hurt when you did that.”
Me: “I know. I’m sorry. We are always learning, even Mommies. I will try to do better the next time I feel angry.”
May your days be filled with the humility to hear the wisdom of your children, and the ability to admit when you are wrong.
By the way, if you came because of the AWESOME picture at the start of this post, I’m sorry – it has nothing to do with the content of today’s article. This is a picture of the crew on pajama day in our amazing blanket fort. More about this spectacular event soon! Thanks for reading!