Worst mistake or greatest lesson?

My oldest daughter, Emerson, is now in third grade. I almost flinch every time I say that aloud. I remember her first day of daycare, her first day of preschool, her first day of dance class. I just cannot believe she is in third grade. When I say it, it is like I am simultaneously having to admit how grown up she is already.  

Her once chubby cheeks are gone, her once dimpled fingers are as long as mine, her toothless grin has turned into a beautiful smile that has the capability to light up an entire room in an instant. She is growing up right before my eyes.  

Along with losing all her baby features, she is gaining so much intellectually, but it comes at a cost. The more she learns of this world, the more I can see her innocence fading. This is something I have prayed about every night for all my children since the moment they entered this world.  

“Please Lord, just let them keep their innocence for as long as possible.” 

It cannot be avoided forever, but I always think I have more time than I actually do. That is just a price you pay as you get older. With wisdom comes maturity and the loss of your innocence as you become aware of how ugly the world can be at times.  

A tough lesson she has had to learn recently: mistakes.  

She has always been my perfectionist. She wants to be the best at everything she does, whether it is school, dance or any of her creative endeavors. If she makes a mistake, she cannot just erase it and fix it, she must completely start over until it is exactly right. At times this can be overwhelming for the both of us, but her sense of accomplishment when she does get it right makes it worth it and I know this attribute will get her far in life.  

This week though, she had to learn that not all mistakes can be erased. That some make a stain that cannot be wiped away, that you cannot always just start over with a clean sheet and begin again.  

That sounds amazing though, doesn’t it? What if we could just erase all our mistakes we may have made in life and start again? Would you? 

Initially I thought I would gladly take advantage of this opportunity if it ever presented itself, but then I started thinking what a true hindrance that would be for me, for my family, my friends, and my coworkers. If I erased all my mistakes that I ever made, I would not be where I am today. I may not have these people surrounding me right now and helping me when I need them, when I do make mistakes and I certainly would be of no help to them if they ever needed it.  

If I had not made mistakes in my life, I would not have ever been able to grow, to learn, to face my fears, to gain clarity, to think creatively or to teach others, including my daughter. I would not have been able to look her in the eye and tell her that mistakes are an important and essential part of life. I would not have these powerful lessons to bestow on her and the opportunity to teach her what I could have done differently.  

Most people (like my daughter was) are ashamed of their mistakes, but when we are courageous enough to make our most private struggles known, then we inspire others to do the same. There lie great teaching moments when you can own up to your mistakes and instead of seeing them as something negative, instead use it as an opportunity to push yourself and encourage others around you to do the same. If we simply try to erase our mistakes and pretend that they never happened, that only sets you up to repeat them. 

I used to always say, “I hope my children learn from my mistakes” and I feel like that is a pretty common thought process when you become a parent.  

Now that I have a renewed perspective, of course I want them to have advantages and opportunities that I never had. I want better for them. I want them to learn from my mistakes so that they may not experience those same setbacks, but now Emerson and I both understand that this will not always be possible.  

My daughters will not always be able to learn from my mistakes, they must learn from their own. There is no other way to grow. 

We must also be quick to forgive others for their mistakes.  

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes” – Winston Churchill

(Paige Nash is a wife, mother and digital journalist for The Webster Parish Journal.)

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