Updated: Feb 25, 2020
By Mayra Azanza
I must admit, I always make mistakes. One way or another, every day, no matter what, I make one or two or more. And ever since I am the mom of a precious 11 year old daughter and a wonderful 5 year old son it seems like mistakes charge me like linemen in a football game. But it wasn’t until I stopped fighting and started owning them instead that I had been able to change the narrative in my relationship with my children and our mistakes. It is a learning process, one that everyone in this family goes through. Like the day I completely forgot to pack my then 4 YO son’s bottle of water. Oh boy… he was deeply offended. He refused to kiss me when I picked him up, which made me upset because I was really looking forward to seeing him, but instead of the happy face I was expecting, I got a gloomy, pouty face and a very public rejection that made me feel embarrassed and confused. At that moment I didn’t know what did I do to deserve such rejection, so my first instinct was to snap. And of course, I did. As soon as we got into the car I snapped at him: “How about ‘hi mom’?” I asked him without even hiding my annoyance. “You didn’t pack my bottle of water” he said, avoiding eye contact. I couldn’t believe my ears… all that because of his bottle of water? Really? Me being me, I gave him a whole speech about privilege, entitlement, life expectations and the meaning of fairness, then I looked at him through the rearview mirror: he had no clue what I was talking about... There he was, a 4 year old boy still upset because: His-mother-forgot-to-pack-his-bottle-of-water. Period. Getting home I got to his eye level and asked him again why he was so upset. “You forgot my bottle of water. And I was very thirsty. That’s not nice. You forgot about me.” He said in a very sad voice. I made a conscious effort to listen to his concerns without adding mine, and I made sure to acknowledge his perspective nice, loud and clear: -I see that you think I forgot about you -Yes. You did. -Well, I understand how you feel, but no, I did not forget about you. I forgot about your bottle of water. -That wasn’t nice. I hugged him and reassured him that while I forgot to pack his bottle of water, I didn’t do that on purpose. I took his Mistake doll and showed it to him, he hugged it as I shared my feelings with him, too, letting him know how badly his rejection made me feel when I picked him up and he rejected me like that. We hugged each other. Then I placed his Mistake doll on the table and I saw the opportunity to open up a dialogue to set up clear, realistic expectations: “We all make mistakes, my love” I said “and not putting your bottle of water in your backpack was my mistake, I am sorry about that. I cannot promise you I will never forget your bottle of water again, because Mistakes happen all the time!” I said as I made his Mistake doll joyfully dance around the table, which made him smile “But I need you to tell me what would you do if that ever happens again?” We discussed the possible solutions and alternatives to his bottle of water. Now he knows there are water fountains around the school where he can get water if he’s thirsty and his sister showed him how to use them. He also knows how to ask his teacher in case he cannot get to a water fountain. And more importantly: he knows his lunch is also his responsibility, so he checks every morning to make sure everything is in there. The character Mistake has helped us countless times to break the tension on situations that can escalate quickly and become a power struggle. Mistake is so cute, imperfect and fun that it has been such an important tool for guiding my family through the journey of becoming part of a very complex society. It helps me deliver my message, it opens my children’s heart to dialogue and in the end, it makes communication easier when topics are tough and sometimes emotionally charged. As a family and as individuals we are not free of mistakes and we’ll never be, but with the help of Mistake we’re absolutely sure that the mistakes we will continue to make will open up dialogues, will create learning opportunities and strengthen our bonds as a family. Because after all… Mistakes are invaluable learning opportunities.