A couple months ago, when we were buying veggie starters at Lowe’s, Happy did something that horrified us (I am not revealing what he did now because it will likely be the subject of a future blog post). It was something that went squarely against a basic parenting tenet we had established and while it really wasn’t that big of a deal, it was enough to cue me into the fact that, hmm, we hadn’t been paying enough attention to that value lately and maybe we needed to re-focus a bit. As we resolved the situation, I caught BF’s eye.
“We need to talk about that later,” I whispered.
Outside we went with our veggies and our kid and as we were loading up the car, BF was ready to talk.
“We are not bad parents!” He exclaimed before the conversation even started.
“I don’t think we are,” I replied, confused.
“Well, then, why did you want to talk about what just happened?” He asked.
“Because it’s something we said that we were going to be deliberate about in our parenting and that incident just reminded me that maybe we haven’t been all that deliberate about it lately and we could be. I am not criticizing us. I don’t think the world has ended. I think we simply just got some information that we can do something with. That’s all.”
BF’s bristles slowly laid back down as he remembered that we look at these types of situations pretty differently.
Last week, I got a notice from my bank that they had to transfer money from my savings account to my checking account to cover two checks I had written. Because I am not technologically inclined, I NEVER check my online banking statement. I might be the only person under 40 who still balances her checkbook in a little registry. I am hopefully not the only one who forgets to write some stuff in there and then ends up thinking she has a different balance than she does and, well, ends up needing money drawn out of her savings account to cover the checks she wrote (I am pausing here for a moment in gratitude that I am disciplined about having a savings account).
When I got the notice, I thought, aww, man. And then I thought, “hmmm, maybe I am not doing this the best way. Maybe there is a better way for me to keep up with my money.” I didn’t think “I suck at math.” I didn’t say, “I have no right being responsible for my money.” The letter from my bank was simply information that told me that maybe my current system wasn’t working so well.
We are so inclined to think that we are colossal screw-ups. That we are just one mistake away from being found out. Poor BF thought that I was going to totally berate our parenting not because I am a berater (I’m not, I promise), but because he exists, most of the time, in a more traditional world where you are either perfect or imperfect. You have either strengths or weaknesses that get dissected on annual reviews and the like.
But we are not- not one of us- a colossal screw-up. Maybe we’ve had our slip-ups– we forget to write an item in the checkbook or to mail a bill or said something we regret or forgot to reply to an email in a timely manner or fill in the blank here. But just because we don’t attend to every detail that we thought we should/could or others wished we would doesn’t mean we are flawed or imperfect. It is simply information.
The Lowe’s incident simply reminded us that we had gotten busy and forgotten to prioritize something. Being reminded of it allowed us to address it right away and to continue to do so regularly. For right now, it’s a non-issue, that value is reflected again in our parenting priorities. It could happen that we get busy and it falls away again. If it does, we’ll just recommit.
The checkbook incident made me aware that I probably need to check my online checking account more regularly and actually get some cash to use in the world instead of writing checks that I then forget to record in my little checkbook. Advanced math may not be my strong point but that’s not what caused the mishap. My memory (or lack thereof) did.
Maybe you forgot lunch with a friend. You aren’t the worst friend ever. Maybe your calendar system isn’t the best one for you or you are overwhelmed and need to streamline life right now by saying no to a few invitaitions.
Whatever it is that has made you call yourself a screw-up lately is lying to you. You are not a screw-up. The things that turn out differently than you expected or that you aren’t able to make happen aren’t taunting you. They aren’t telling you that you are imperfect (because both perfect and imperfect are total farces). They are giving you information. See them that way and there’s a way to grow, there’s a way up, there is possibility.
In what ways have you been seeing yourself as flawed? If you just look at those situations as information, can you see a way to grow from them? How can you be kinder and more generous in your critique of yourself?