As I wrote in your birthday letter last month, the first weekend of December triggers powerful memories of your birth, regardless of the weekday on which your birthday falls from year to year. That’s because I will always remember your arrival as beginning on a Friday morning at work and ending on a Saturday morning at the hospital. As a way of honoring those memories throughout the year and providing you with instructions for living a good life, I decided to chronicle wisdom I’ve gained over the course of my life. My plan was to write a letter to you on the first weekend of each month for one year. As you can see, I’m late in writing the first letter; Mommy made a mistake. The good news? Mistakes provide opportunities for learning, so this is where we shall begin. My first Life Lesson Letter to you, dear Son, will be on Dealing with Mistakes.
Let’s talk about Mommy’s mistake first: a blown deadline. First, let me say that the deadline was self-imposed. No one knew that I planned to begin this series the first weekend in January, a window of time I deemed ideal from an editorial standpoint. When I missed the deadline, I considered scrapping the entire idea. I also thought about framing the series differently, leaving out the tie-in to the first weekend of the month and its significance. Here’s the rub, though. The deadline was no less real or important just because it was self-imposed. I knew the deadline was there, and I knew I blew it. And if I scrapped the idea entirely or reframed it just to save face, to protect my pride, you and I would have both lost. Either I wouldn’t have written the letters at all, thereby robbing you of a permanent record of my experiences and resulting wisdom, or I wouldn’t have written them as planned, which defeats the entire purpose of the lesson I’m attempting to impart.
So why did I make the mistake in the first place? It wasn’t because I was too busy–oh let’s be honest, you are a handful and keep Mommy very busy. That isn’t the reason, though. In truth, I was scared. The task of poetically sharing prolific wisdom for my son and all posterity seemed so…big. “You’re no Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra,” said the voice of Doubt in my head. In the end, I told Doubt where she could stick it; I don’t need to be those people to share wisdom with my son. I only need to be his mother–a woman who is blessed to have lived a full, messy, beautiful life and is inclined to capture poignant lessons on the page (or screen, in this case) should I leave this Earth too soon.
So I found the courage to admit my mistake–to myself, to my readers and to you–so that I could move forward with undertaking the Life Lesson Letters project. And that’s exactly what you must do, Finley; when you make a mistake, admit it to yourself and to anyone who needs to know in order for you to move forward. I’m not saying it will be easy. Admitting mistakes means swallowing your pride. And while pride has its place, it also has a tendency to get you in trouble. (Be careful to keep your pride in check lest you risk making additional mistakes to selfishly serve and protect it.)
In addition to possessing the courage to admit a mistake, you must develop the capacity to be gracious and gentle when someone admits a mistake to you. Don’t take it as an opportunity to tell them just how big their mistake was. What they have to say is difficult enough. Let them do the talking until you sense they’ve said what they need to say. With a kind heart, even if it is broken, try to understand what they’ve said so that you can free them and yourself from the burden that unresolved mistakes create. You would want the same if the roles were reversed. What is often called the Golden Rule in Christianity is applicable here: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Come to think of it, if people lived by that rule, fewer mistakes would be made.)
Even if your intentions are pure, even if you are trying to be perfect, you will make mistakes. You are human and, therefore, all of the beautiful and terrible things that go along with that condition. Know above all else that Mommy and Daddy will love you even when you make a mistake. And we won’t be alone. The family you have today and the family you create many years from now will love you even when you screw up. That fact alone should fill you with a sense of gratitude powerful enough to make you want to do some good in this world.