Last Thursday I was working on some of the regular content that I put out every week. I had gotten most of it done and scheduled to publish ahead of time since it was the last full week before school starts and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my little girl. The exception was my newsletter which has to wait until Thursday morning to be finished since that is when my nutrition and physical health blog Nourish Me Wellness publishes. I always share both of my blogs in my weekly newsletter.
I had most of that done, too. I just needed to edit it and add the links for the Nourish Me Wellness Blog and push “send.” When I first logged on, muscle memory (or auto-pilot as we like to say) caused me to create a whole new document instead of clicking on the almost finished email. No biggie. I reversed my direction and got to editing the email that was nearly complete.
I added the links, fine-tuned some content, and saved the finished product. In Mail Chimp, I now had to back out of the editing screen and into the Campaigns screen which lists all of my past and present emails. Here, I saw the file I had accidentally created. To clean up my list, I clicked on the mistakenly created email and went through several fail-safe mechanisms to delete the file. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the mistakenly created email I deleted. It was the one I had just finished.
Instantly I went into self-hatred mode. My mean girl went on a tirade. How could you possibly have done that? What an idiot! You know, your life would be a whole lot easier if you weren’t such a moron!
What actually came out of my mouth was something like, “Wha? Are you…? Fu@#! Gaa!” and some unintelligible gibberish. Unfortunately, my six-year-old was sitting nearby witnessing my messy breakdown.
Since I was providing an excellent example of how not to react to a mistake, I left the room and finished fuming in my bathroom. When I came back, I was somewhat more composed, or at least better at hiding my self-loathing. I calmly reopened Mail Chimp and began my email from scratch, mumbling under my breath and clenching my teeth.
After a short while, my little girl said, “Did you make a mistake, Mama?”
“Yep,” I said. “But I’m fixing it now.”
“Well, you know, it’s not the end of the world.”
Truer words have never been spoken. What a wise little girl!
First of all, it was just an email. The fate of the world didn’t hang in the balance. If the thing didn’t go out at all only about 50 people on the planet would even be aware.
Second, my mistake was relatively easy to remedy. What takes the longest on those emails is uploading the photos. Since I had already uploaded them, all I had to do was stick the images in, rewrite the original content (which did take some time and wasn’t as good as the first go around), copy and paste blog teasers, and place the links. It took about half an hour. Honestly, my temper tantrum took longer than redoing the email.
As parents, we assume a seat of power in the family. We are the ones who know things, who do the comforting, who make the rules and encourage self-restraint. We are the ones who say, “It’s not the end of the world,” because we have experience in this area. Mistakes aren’t the end of the world. If they were, we wouldn’t be here a thousand times over.
When my child witnessed my epic temper tantrum and waited until I had calmed down before offering comforting advice without judgment, it became utterly clear that I am not the one who holds the wisdom in every situation. Again, I am reminded how much we can learn from the little people in our lives.
What a wealth of wisdom they possess! How do we encourage this wisdom to grow without squashing it in a multitude of rules, shoulds, and social conventions? School starts on Wednesday. How can I hold this little girl up so her light can continue to burn bright in the midst of the drab grey system?
I can’t protect her from bullies, I can only give her the tools to deal with them on her own. I can’t help her with the complicated math problem and subsequent feelings of despair and frustration, but I can show her patience and tenacity. I can’t dictate how she will react to social injustice, but I can encourage her to speak up. I can do this best through example. Because of this, it is vital that I tame my mean girl, so hers doesn’t have a chance to grow.
It isn’t always apparent when she is in need of help. It is a matter of listening carefully to the off-handed thing she almost didn’t say; accepting her as she is unconditionally and without judgment every day; simply listening without adding or advising, asking high mileage questions that encourage her to say more while I say less.
Some days there will be tears at pick up, other days smiles and I am resolute in my intention to roll with it and encourage her to be who she is in the moment. Because much of what she hears all day might be full of rules, shoulds, negativity, and feeling unsure, I vow that our time together be full of positivity, love, encouragement, and fun. Sure, she needs to go to bed on time, adhere to boundaries, and brush her teeth. But she needs downtime without expectations as well.
I read a Facebook post by Rachel Macy Stafford (the author of Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life) the other day. I follow her regularly because I need to hear her words of encouragement and positivity often. On this day, she wrote about encouraging her daughters by leaving them each a bag listing the things that she loved about each one of them on the first day of school. Since one was starting High School and the other was starting Middle School, they were at socially awkward stages of life. A little encouragement goes a long way. Knowing that you are loved mends the parts broken by mean girls, tough teachers, new routines, and long days.
My little is starting first grade. New teacher, new friends, new routine. I am doing my best to encourage the excited part in her, while not entirely ignoring the scared part in her. We recognize the fear, honor it, and then let love take over. Love always wins.
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