Maybe its a perfection thing – part of the ‘Participation Trophy’ business. I have a few friends who call it the ‘soccerization’ of America. Everyone wins! Everyone gets a medal/trophy! There are always snacks! We high five everyone! We cheer for all!
Well…that just isn’t life, and now we are trying to teach these ‘soccerized’ children. I never wanted to be a ‘when I was young’ person – I think those arguments are generally silly. When others say, when I was young…bla, bla bla. Here is the deal – do you really want the world as it was then? Do you want the same car? The same computer? I have to say no. I have no desire to go back to living life as a 4th grader (possibly because of my impending ‘chunkiness’). Was it simpler? Possibly, maybe. Was it better? In some ways, but not all.
However – there is one thing (well, to be honest probably more than one) I would like to carry over. It’s the idea of NOT being perfect, and being completely okay with it. I wasn’t good at running, and I certainly did not get a medal (or trophy or ribbon for that matter) for trying. I simply wasn’t good. I didn’t cry over it (well, not much any way). What did this teach me? It’s okay to try, it’s okay to try your best, it’s okay to fail…as long as you get over it. As long as you move on and find what you are good at.
My mom was a classic ‘pull up your big girl pants’ kind of lady. While she wouldn’t want to be called a feminist. It’s exactly what she is. That poor word…it gets a bad rap. What is a feminist? According to Wikipedia (which of course I do not allow my students to use) it is: a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
Yep – I’d say that is the dictionary equivalent to her “don’t make such a fuss,” “you are not entitled, you must work hard,” “get over it,” “life isn’t fair,” “not everyone will like you,” “put your big girl panties on,” “suck it up,” or my personal favorite “buck up, women have babies every day it doesn’t make you special.”
How do I teach students to take control of their problems – to learn the difference between external influences and internal ‘dumb’ (thanks mom)? How do I teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes. Own it, even if it’s wrong. Just own it.
The fence is the worst place to be. So many of my students are there – in so many areas of life. In their romantic relationships, choosing a major, dealing with their parents, confronting a friend – it seems they are CRAZY stressed, almost paralyzed from the reality that they have to make a decision and they may make a mistake.
Well, here is the deal students. You WILL error. I guarantee it. MORE than once. You WILL Fail. You WILL make mistakes…big ones, like really, really, really HUGE mistakes.
But just choose. The real worth of a person (at least to me) is how they handle jumping off on the wrong side of the fence. Left side, right side. Left side, right side. Close your eyes and go!
Whoops, I made a mistake. Trust me, I’ve made some dousies (I have no idea how to spell that – trying to write ‘doo-sies’). Yes – some of them still haunt me – like Mrs. DeShaw in first grade. She caught me ‘cheating’ – I’m not real sure what I was doing, or why. But I remember the distant pain of letting her down. I so much wanted to be like her, and there I was, caught red-handed, a cheater on a math test. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t remember – that’s just one thing about mistakes. More often than not, we remember…and not many others do!
Each decision that is wrong will help you become more right.
What’s even more interesting to me is the world to which my children have been exposed. I have had at least three teachers tell me that there is something ‘wrong’ with my children because they don’t make excuses or lie about their behavior. WHAT!??!!??? Yeah, I know. You know why? Because I teach them that mistakes are good – as long as we learn our lesson and try not to repeat the same pattern. We never REALLY mean to make a mistake. Just last week my son broke our bird bath. Here is how the conversation went:
(He runs inside)
Him: Mom, I have something to tell you. I made an error (yes, he really does talk like this).
Me: Okay, what was that.
Him: I broke the bird bath.
Me: Oh, how did that happen?
Him: Well, I was looking inside and the water was frozen on top, but not on the bottom. It looked really cool and I wanted to see what would happen if I broke the ice.
Him: So, I picked up one of the stones around the garden and dropped it in the center of the bird bath. When it hit the bird bath broke in two.
Me: Woah. Bet that scared you.
Him: (Laughing) Yep. I’m so glad I can tell you that I made a mistake.
Me: (Laughing) Did you pick up that stone and think “I am going to smash that bird bath to pieces and break it just to be naughty.”
Him: Of course not.
Me: It was an accident, a mistake. Will you ever throw a stone in a bird bath again?
We have to jump off the fence, and sometimes we jump off on the wrong side.
Dearest students, please stop trying to be perfect. The quest for perfection is paralyzing. Really, it is. The paralyzation is causing you to not learn. You aren’t willing to error – but you MUST error to learn. Try just living, take life as it comes at you…one day at a time.
I recently met with a former Professor of mine. As we parted ways he said, “I’m so proud of the woman you have become. You were always so happy, but you have really come into yourself.” I smiled for hours, because I had spent the previous hour recounting errors, mistakes, and lapses in judgement. At one point in the conversation he said to me, “Spontaneity is scary. It’s hard. It’s why people plan carefully and compartmentalize their lives. Lived life is scary. Life that is lived is unpredictable. It’s easier to say ‘this is right’ and ‘this is wrong’ because it helps people deal with the reality that life is coming at you – and you really can’t stop it. I most proud of you because you live that scary life.”
Maybe all of this comes down to humans being afraid of judgement. Judgement by peers, by friends, by relatives, by acquaintances, by strangers, by God. Well, I think that’s phooey –
I am as perfect as I can be on any given day. Every day I try my best and I believe that others do too. Every night I go to bed to wake up the next morning and have another chance. Another chance to err, another chance at life. I won’t judge you…because I am as perfectly imperfect as every other human being that is walking this great earth.
So, do it – live life. Jump off the fence. If you jump on the right side, good for you. If you jump off the wrong side – congratulations. You are about to become a better version of you.