Last night, I was talking with my five-year-old about making mistakes. I told him that it was always okay to admit that he doesn’t know why he makes a bad choice. Sometimes we just have to make the bad choices in order to learn why those are, indeed, bad choices, and what makes better ones.
I looked him right in the face and said, “Oh my goodness, you are going to do SO MANY stupid things in your life, you have no idea.” And he laughed in that way where you’re not quite sure why something’s funny.
I told him, “Trust me, even your own mommy has done so many stupid things in her life.” And he laughed harder. Probably because we really try not to use the word “stupid” so much around here. I made sure to let him know that even though people may make stupid choices, usually it’s not because the people are stupid, and calling someone stupid is very mean and not something we should ever do.
I told my boy that it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to admit your mistakes and apologize. Sometimes, that’s the best thing to do. Not to blame or try to cover it up. Just to say, I made a mistake. I did something stupid. I didn’t realize it would be such a bad choice. I’m sorry. I try to live the lesson, myself, to show him that it’s part of everyone’s life. It’s how we learn.
I’ve made many mistakes, which I think M was surprised to hear. I asked him if I was a good mommy now. He gave me a look like he couldn’t believe it would even be a question, of course I am a good mommy. I told him that I am a good mommy today because of all the stupid things I’ve done in my life that allowed me to learn and grow.
And I know my kids have a lot of stupid decisions ahead of them. I just hope that I can teach them to misbehave responsibly, if that can actually be a thing that’s possible. Because I worry about the permanence of the Internet. I worry about kids that are just being stupid because they can’t not be stupid while growing and learning, but whose stupid choices may haunt them forever, prevent them from maturing because of the one YouTube video or tweet or Instagram photo that will forever show up when you google their name.
So these days, in order to help avoid anything too colossally stupid in their future, I’m focusing on honesty. On allowing my kid to make those five-year-old decisions to test my reactions, to see the little consequences, and to learn to trust his own instincts about what is right so that when it comes to the bigger choices of his middle and teenage years, he will know and do right by himself and by others, that he will be caught on video being a helper instead of a jackass. That he will always, always know that I am on his side. That even when he makes a stupid choice–and he most definitely will–I will be there. I will understand, and I will always help him learn and do better, however I can.