Perfectly Imperfect: Learning to Appreciate My Mistakes

If I could go back in time to change anything, would I? Would you?

Perfectly ImperfectLooking back over the years, I have a few regrets–many of them relating to things I’ve done (or not done) with my kids. There are all the times I wasn’t as patient as I should have been, the times I yelled or snapped, the days I nitpicked the negative, the moments when I flipped out over inconsequential things. I could sit here for hours culling up example after example about where I’ve gone wrong. I could wish to have those moments back to do them “right,” but I’m learning that there’s some good in them too, actually.

My kids have learned some important lessons through my parental failings. They’ve learned we’re all human and make mistakes–even grown ups. They’ve learned that some mistakes can be fixed … and others cannot. They’ve learned we have to be careful and thoughtful with our words and actions because once we’ve said or done something, it can’t be taken back. They’ve learned the value of saying “I’m sorry” and that a sincere apology can be very meaningful. They’ve learned whether or not that apology fixes everything, they need to take responsibility for their actions and try to make things right. They’ve also learned a lot about the value of forgiving and moving on.

My kids aren’t the only ones who’ve learned … I’ve had my share of lessons as I’ve sorted out the mistakes I’ve made.

I’ve learned that a kiss and some cuddle time can help heal hurt feelings. I’ve learned we’re often more critical of ourselves than others are of us. I’ve learned that pausing to count to ten–or even just five–helps settle a temper and offer perspective. I’ve learned everyone can benefit from a timeout. And I’ve learned listening and hearing are two very different things.

Recognizing that I’m not perfect–and I won’t ever be–has been one of the hardest and most beneficial lessons I’ve learned–and it’s made me a better parent because it helps me remember my kids aren’t perfect either. I know I don’t have all the answers; I don’t have to.

Being transparent, available, and vulnerable with my kids is important; it shows my humanity. That means they’ll see me fumble and falter, which includes falling down–and they’ll see me getting back up, brushing myself off and doing what I need to do to correct the problem. They’ll see me make mistakes and try my best to fix them. They’ll see that even when things go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. They’re learning by my examples that sometimes life is hard–made that way by our own choices and actions. They also get to see sometimes, some days, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other and doing the hard work to make things right. They’re learning that it’s ok to be mad, but it doesn’t last forever.

As my kids grow up and develop new relationships and have kids of their own, they’ll make mistakes. When they say or do something that upsets or hurts someone they care about, they’ll have had enough experience and practice to know what they need to do … and they’ll know it probably won’t be broken forever. Hopefully, when they have kids of their own some day, they’ll remember the mistakes and lessons we’ve all learned.

Everything you’ve ever done is what’s made you who you are today. I may not be perfectly satisfied with where I am and I might want to make changes and improvements for the future, but I’ve learned so much along the way. I’m a work in progress … a much improved, but still not perfect, work in progress.

Although the honest feedback and sting of the moment can be difficult, I know there’s something good to come from every mistake. So, even if I could go back in time to right the wrongs, I’m just not sure I would. Instead, I’d rather do my best to continue learning and applying the knowledge from every situation and mistake. I don’t want to spend my energy wishing for moments back to redo. Instead I’ll spend my energy on taking what I’ve learned and trying my best to put it into action. I may not get it right today … or tomorrow, but I’ll keep trying.

If you could go back in time to change anything, would you?

FTSF BlogHopButtonThis post is part of the Finish the Sentence Friday series. I’m excited to be co-hosting this week!! The prompt for this post was “If I could go back in time …” Join me and our awesome hostesses:

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  1. says

    DUDE. We did this so similarly. My favorite line is, I think “Everything you’ve ever done is what’s made you who you are today.” I tried to say the same thing, although much less eloquently. Here’s to looking at the tomorrows and being thankful (although of course, sometimes, regretful, about the yesterdays and todays). I LOVE this. Hearts to you, dude, for surprising me with this for sure.
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…The time I was abducted by aliens and could change my pastMy Profile

  2. says

    It’s all about the guilt. When I was home with the kids, I was writing in the middle of the night and hating that I wasn’t using my brain or having that career my expensive education should have made possible. Then I went back to work, and of course I was consumed with guilt for leaving my kids with nannies and daycare. I was always playing the “Why can’t I go back and do it right?” game.

    Then, on Mothers Day a few years ago, one of my daughters gave me an incredible gift. She is a humor writer (not like me, because she actually makes a living at it…) so her present was a blog post thanking me for the example I set for her. Sorry, but being the proud mama means I’m just going to quote the hell out of that piece. She wrote:

    “There’s so much hand-wringing these days over Women In Comedy and Working Mothers and What It All Means. Even Tina Fey, who most of us want to grow up and be, does a lot of angsting in her book over the need to leave her daughter each day to spend long hours making 30 Rock. Women are supposed to have babies, and we’re supposed to have jobs, and we’re supposed to feel awful about doing both.

    I’m not saying being a working mom isn’t hard. (I wouldn’t know. Maybe they’re all just whiners.) But I feel like the whole discussion focuses so much on what kids of working moms lose, not what they gain. Would I still be in comedy if my mom had never written a single column? Maybe. But I would be crappier at it. I’m ambitious because I learned vicariously the thrill of creating something awesome and getting paid for it. I’m a good writer because I watched my mom take all the frustrating, scary, vomitous stuff we did to her and turn it into something that could make the whole town laugh. I’m funny because she taught me to be.” –Melinda Taub []

    So that’s the back-in-time trip I take whenever I wonder if anyone will ever read my books, stop by my blog, or even what the heck I’m doing here.

    • Real Life Parenting says

      What an absolutely wonderful, perfect gift from your daughter. (I’ll be checking her out for sure!) you’re right, we spend so much emotional time worried about whether or not we’re doing it right … So nice to see that she saw what you were doing as a good thing. :)

  3. says

    Back in January, I decided that my word for the year would be imperfection; embracing my own. You have really described it well here. We’re human and it’s okay to not do everything perfectly. We learn some of our most important lessons from not being perfect and our kids gain a new understanding and respect for us when we let that show.
    Kat recently posted…Finish the Sentence Friday – #5My Profile

  4. says

    So true, Jennifer. Each one of our mistakes teaches us something whether we realize it at the time or not. And I’d be too chicken to change something in the past, for fear that it would change everything after that. I wouldn’t want to change where I am now – mistakes and all.
    Dana recently posted…Painting the front door – another DIY failMy Profile

  5. says

    Yes! it’s about the process. Oh the value of the count to ten first, the timeouts, the “I’m sorry. Mommy wasn’t very patient with you, was she?”…
    My two could write a book about the experiences of living with me. This Christmas when both were home we’d often sit and just laugh. About those experiences. “Remember when Mom …”
    For me the key was acknowledging my delightfully dreadful mommy moments. There were lots!
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…Embarrassingly Unfortunate Rape Alarm IncidentMy Profile

  6. says

    I am crossing my fingers that many of these “mistakes” that I wish I could do over are actually great learning opportunities for my kids. We need to teach them about what it means to be real people- flaws, bad judgment calls, meltdowns, and all. Life is messy- there’s a lot of value in that. :) So glad you joined us as co-hostess this week!
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. recently posted…Mommy’s Time OutMy Profile

  7. says

    This is wonderful. It’s so easy to look back and see everything I’ve done wrong with my kids or mistakes I’ve made. This is a good reminder that we are all still learning.

  8. says

    At the risk of sounding like Nick Mom, we are all perfectly imperfect parents. I think it’s better that way because I don’t like perfect people. They make me feel like I’m not good enough. I don’t ever want to make someone feel that way around me. I flaunt my flaws and imperfections, my failures and my insecurity, because for whatever reason, it seems to make others more comfortable around me, although there are times where I’m like, “I totally burned dinner. Killed 7 houseplants. The kids are purple and I’m not sure from what. And they dumped the trash can and laundry into a pile…” and then people I sometimes swear are thinking, “Now you are just bragging and showing off.”
    Michelle AKA Dribbles and Grits recently posted…Tolerating LifeMy Profile

  9. says

    Okay, just one thing: I would have saved the copy of Dynamite Magazine in which my bummer was published. Otherwise, I am who I am because of everything that has come before now. I’m learning to embrace that. Beautiful post.
    Foxy Wine Pocket recently posted…The Pooping TreeMy Profile


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