My mother was and is perfect. Not in the way that all mothers are perfect in that powerful, spiritual sense - like actually, certifiably perfect. You know the woman whose clothes are always stylish and skirting is dust free? The one that invites you round for a bite and then serves truffle stuffed pheasant. You know the chick you secretly hate but keep hanging with in the hope that some of the sparkle will rub off on you? Yeah, that's my mum (no pressure then). There is one disadvantage to having such a stellar role model - I never saw her make a mistake. Like one time she put salted butter in a cake but actually it gave it this really distinct flavour.
Failing gracefully is a skill. One which when learnt rather than diminishing someones worth makes them all the more appealing. We learn by modelling behaviours; without seeing one of my primary caregivers fail (my dad's pretty near perfect but susceptible to very minor bouts of road rage) good therapy and twenty years of Cosmopolitan have let me know that the result was a fear of failure. When you have FOF one of two things happen - you become a perfectionist, risking health and sanity to make everything absolutely right or you cease to try. Being a natural conservator of energy I took the latter route. I don't want that for my child. I want him to fail, fail again, fail better. Fail with abandon, become King of Failure (or something). So here are the four ways I want him to see me fail it up .
Failing a test. I think adults forget that life for young people can sometimes feel like lurching from test to test for years. After a while you start to feel disconnected; you start to tell yourself that your worth can actually be measured in percentages. I want to show him that tests are a part of life and not the meaning of it; many people fail tests and prosper. This should be an easy one to arrange as I have failed four driving tests so far and I'm showing no signs of making it fifth time lucky.
Admitting that I'm not able to do something. I don't think it's arrogance that prevents parents from sharing this information, it just becomes second nature to find methods to compensate for where we are lacking. This is a really easy one to achieve, you just have to own your truth and name it. Example: 'Mummy is hiding the Marks & Spencer box because she's going to pretend that she made dinner herself because she doesn't really know how to make fish pie.' Of course I then risk kiddo blurting out said truth to bemused guests which brings me neatly to number 3.
Being wrong and admitting it. Being British I thought I was great at apologising. I wake up and apologise to the sun for having to rise for my convenience. Then I realised I was good at apologising in situations when I believe I have done no wrong. 'Oh sorry you bumped into me! Oh sorry you messed up my booking!' LOOK HOW GRACIOUS I AM. When it came to stuff I had royally mucked up I was perhaps a little too busy scanning my mind for someone who could be complicit in my wrongdoing to offer a decent apology. I want my son to hear me say, 'I'm sorry I lied about the fish pie, I was lazy, forgive me.' More importantly I want him to hear me say that to him (not necessarily about fish pie, about other stuff. Okay, let's stop talking about fish pie now).
Learning something and stumbling. For me this is about putting your money where you mouth is. Have you seen The Apprentice? For anyone that hasn't it's about a yodaesque pensioner with a cockney accent combing through the sales suites of the nation for his next protegee. One thing he likes to say is, 'I wouldn't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do meself.' And I think really? Really Lord Sir Alan? Are you really gonna climb down from your chair, get down on the knees of your hand made suit and gut chickens or whatever banal task you've assigned? This is what I think kids think when adults get on them about piano practise or maths homework. I want to let my son know that I'm asking him to push himself because I value the process. I don't see why if he has to learn how to conjugate German verbs, I can't show him I'm willing to learn too. Nein?
Do you think it's good for children to see their parents fail?