Mistakes are simply mislabelled lessons …

…. and the consequences are the school fees.

Sometimes, the fees are expensive.

Until very recently, I was obsessed with getting things right. I really and truly believed that there was a clearly defined right and wrong course of action in every single situation, and that the only path to success was to identify and follow the right course. In retrospect, that is undeniably naive.

Recently, after a run of rather serious and far-reaching mistakes, I have realised something important. Mistakes are lessons. We learn what not to do, how not to respond, who not to be. For the most part, people don’t die from their mistakes. All we do is learn and grow.

In that way, a mistake can be seen to be a good thing, an opportunity to become a better version of ourselves.

Applying what we’ve learned

About eight weeks ago, we decided to do a broad-spectrum experiment in rearing our children. Essentially, we scaled the rules down to the bare minimum:

  • Make sure we’re not late as a result of any of the “adaptations”. For instance, a messy room hiding all the clean clothes is not an excuse for us being late for Church.
  • Supper time is family time.
  • No bed time stories if Mama can’t reach the bed because of the toys.
  • No pocket money if no chores are done.

Based on everything I’d read that led me to give the experiment an honest go, a natural outworking of this experiment would be that everyone would begin to see the value of pitching in and doing their share. After a while, it would just be easier (and more fulfilling) to establish our own sense of order, and then put in the small amount of effort required to maintain it.

The results of our experiment

Just over a week ago, Red had a birthday. Her gift from Grandma was the most beautiful heart-shaped silver locket. It was the perfect “growing up” gift, and she treasured it. For almost three days. By the end of the third day, it had disappeared into the chaos formerly known as “Their Room”. This was about six weeks after our experiment began. In that time, virtually every dish washed, was washed by me. The dogs pretty much only got fed if I fed them. And it goes without saying that meals were prepared and dishes washed by yours truly.

I lost it.

I explained in low, calm, measured tones, that “Fun Mum” was gone. OCD Mama was back. Order and discipline would be restored, and things were going back to the way they’d been before.

Now, we have a tidy house and order reigns. I can breathe again, and I’ve decided that the free-to-be approach to parenting simply isn’t going to work for our family. It was a mistake, and I’ve learnt from it. I’ve learnt that what works for me is at least as important as what works for the rest of the family, If not more so, since I’m the one who has to make it happen.

So we’re going back to what works for us, with the confidence that it really is what works best for us.

One thought on “Mistakes are simply mislabelled lessons …

  1. Welcome back ! I was never able to go with the flow, and my children were not even allowed to appear at the breakfast table unless faces were washed and pj’s exchanged for clothing appropriate for our school day. I do not have OCD, but I like structure, and our kids did better than some of my free spirit friend’s did.

    I will tell you one thing, my kids (now adults) have a tremendous work ethic. I know some home schoolers think it’s the bomb to stay in their pajamas all day – including the mom. That simply would not work here. Work is a blessing, and it gives great rewards, whether doing math papers, or dusting book shelves.

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