This week I have been reminded of the value of making mistakes.  A friend was telling me about his teenage daughter’s intense desire to create ‘perfect’ art.  She is a talented young lady, though he says that part of her secret in making such lovely drawings was that she traced around other works and then filled them in beautifully.  Now that she is trying to work in freehand she is struggling because she wants to achieve that same “perfection.”

We talked together about how creativity often involves making mistakes.  I have very little knowledge about art, but I know a bit about photography and cooking and craftwork.  I have noticed that sometimes in these disciplines there are ‘happy accidents.’  The lighting might change suddenly, and one shot changes to a completely different photograph.  Or maybe I’ve run out of a particular ingredient so I have to improvise.  Perhaps I added too many eggs or not quite enough sugar.  The results aren’t always a flop, in fact sometimes they’re better than the original.  I am sure the same must go for art.  While my friend’s daughter wants her drawings to be perfect, much of what we consider beauty is in no way perfect, but pleasing nevertheless.

So I’m revisiting an old topic here today– the value of making mistakes as a parent, and allowing our children the freedom make mistakes too.  It seems an old saw to say we learn from our mistakes.  Of course we do.  But I know I’d rather learn from other peoples’ mistakes and not make any myself!  I am hard on myself and want to be the best I can be. Surely there’s nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, if taken too far, expecting the best from ourselves and from our children can have a detrimental effect to our relationships.  My relationship with my own self can suffer.  And of course my children do as I do rather than as I say.  I want to teach my children that it’s ok to make mistakes, and that often our greatest learning is the fruit of those accidents.

When my eldest daughter was in nursery one of her teachers used to say, “it doesn’t matter” whenever there was a spill or an accident.  She said it so much that my child brought the phrase home with her, and on one memorable occasion I spilled dinner all over the floor, and her little squeaky voice chimed in, “It doesn’t matter mummy” and stroked my back with her little soft hand.  At the time of course I wanted to sit down and weep, but that “doesn’t matter” actually helped to bring perspective to a tense situation.  Her empathy helped me so much.  I have tried to adopt the “It doesn’t matter” in my life as far as I’m able, and to pat my own back when times are tough.  Dropping the dinner on the floor turned into an opportunity for me to be kinder to myself and learn a valuable lesson from my child.

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Making mistakes- a golden opportunity
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6 thoughts on “Making mistakes- a golden opportunity

  • 01/11/2011 at 12:35 pm

    Another great post that resonates with me, Lisa (being a procrastinating perfectionist!). Thank you 🙂

  • 01/11/2011 at 2:54 pm

    I thought about art that the other day. Art is one of the last things in our society that has a value without having to be a necessity. Shame really isn’t it. Loads of things need to have a use to be valued. I’m in no way a perfectionist. But I also feel pressurized by society to be of value. I feel the times, where we just be, without anything else have come too short nowadays. It’s all about a happy balance – isn’t it?
    I’ve listened to an interesting CD the other day in the car. The narrator explained that those art students who used their head rather than tapping into their subconscious, stopped their art studies earlier than those who start any picture and don’t know yet what it’s gonna end up like.
    I wish her good luck in tapping into her subconscious. x

    • 01/11/2011 at 5:32 pm

      Thank you Myriam for all that you have said here. Can you say more about what you mean when you say that you feel pressurized to be of value?

  • 01/11/2011 at 6:14 pm

    Hi Lisa,
    I’ll have to feel into that. It’s just that feeling, sometimes I feel that people don’t value homemakers as much as they should do. That kind of thing. I just wanted to say as well that I value art very, very much. In all it’s forms or abstract forms and varieties. Picasso once said that when people can truly understand art, it will be able to relieve tooth ache for example. I believe that the patterns can be read by the subconsious and work on that level, even against toothache, lol.
    Thank you for your blog. Well said: making mistakes and not being perfect makes us human. We are not machines. And time out is so important. I love it when Iona said “it doesn’t matter mummy”. My favourite quote at the moment is “das passiert schon mal” (that happens sometimes), when my kids or myself drop something. I’ve noticed since I say that I’m more relaxed about spillages and other accidents. Have a good evening. x

  • 01/11/2011 at 9:02 pm

    Hey Lisa
    I love your writing, you explain real life so well, it connects us across the many miles. Taking time to write your blog and set up the website is impressive. I am replying to a blog for the first time here:-)
    Being in the moment is valuable and I appreciate how you share that in Lisa’s log in “Breastfeeding Matters”, a special gift in today’s fast-paced world.
    many thanks

    • 01/11/2011 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Nina,
      Those are lovely words and very motivating for me. I am always happy when my thoughts strike a chord. Setting up the website and blog was no mean feat– the internet is uncharted territory for me and I had to watch a lot of online demos! Well done for writing your first comment– I hope it’s the first of many.

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