Lessons in Adulting

The other day, I was cooking dinner, opened a ziplock bag, and left it on my electric cooktop for a moment.

A corner was touching a hot burner and melted. After I scraped it up and cleaned the area, I called my 7yo into the room. I wanted him to see my mistake – that I made one, how I handled it, that it was ok.

Have you ever taken a step back and thought about your kid’s perception of you? Of what your life is like? Of the things that are important to you?

Chances are, your children have little clue about your motivations, frustrations, and thought processes when it comes to decision making and problem solving. That either goes on in your head or behind closed doors.

It’s easy to model concrete skills: how to peel a carrot, how to wash a window, how to sort the laundry. These activities break down into simple, observable steps that can be easily verbalized.

This year, I’ve realized that I need to be much more intentional in modeling those oh-so-important skills that are less concrete.

You see, my kids think I have it pretty together. I don’t typically complain in front of them about doing chores I don’t like. They see me primarily doing things I’m already pretty good at, and they hear the final decisions rather than the crazy back & forth that led up to it.

With that in mind, I have embarked on 3 Lessons in Adulting this year (and lots of sidebars as well):

Lesson # 1: We all have tasks we don’t enjoy

There are some chores I don’t mind, like putting away the dishes or running the vacuum, but I hate dusting. Part of it may have to do with my dust allergy, but these insidious little particles that get everywhere drive me nuts.

Yes, I’m teaching my kids to clean with good attitudes, but I also need to acknowledge to them that there are things I don’t enjoy either, and then model that I deal with it and do it anyways.

Lesson #2: Mistakes are normal

I don’t want my kids to be afraid of making mistakes. In fact, I want them to learn that mistakes are normal, expected, and part of the growing process.

I want them to know that I make mistakes and to model healthy ways to deal with that, whether that is cleaning up a spill or re-doing a project that got messed up.

We frequently talk about the time Mama knocked the bottom shelf out of the refrigerator, breaking a bunch of glass bottles and spilling various dressings and sauces all over the kitchen floor – not because it’s a fun conversation, but because they need to know that they’re not alone in making mistakes, that we all make them, and that it’s okay.

I also want to teach the principle of using those mistakes for something better. Barney Saltzberg has an amazing book, Beautiful OOPS (not an affiliate link), that celebrates what can be done with the pieces of a mistake.

The same principle can be found in that beautiful Japanese art of Kintsugi, which takes broken pieces, mends them with gold, and makes something beautiful out of brokenness.



Lesson #3: Failure is expected

I remember going skiing in high school. When I came home, I bragged to my dad that I never fell. He looked at me and said, “then you didn’t improve”. I didn’t push myself. I played it safe.

How can we help our kids learn that failure is normal and ok? That everyone who learns to ride a bike will fall at some point. That not every cooking project will work out.

We can’t be afraid of failure. We have to try new things, go outside our comfort zones, and learn new skills. We need to model this for our kids and create a culture in our homes that accepts these bumps along the way.

We need to teach our kids that to be human is to make mistakes, to accept each other for our flaws and variety of strengths, and that there is no shame in failure. Instead, it’s just preparing us for the next thing.

I read an amazing book a couple weeks ago. It’s called The Boy Who Played with Fusion (not an affiliate link). The premise of the book is that this family has 2 gifted boys, one of whom is experimenting with nuclear reactions, and how they as a family navigate this road. There are mistakes, setbacks, and disappointments, but they as a family figure out how to support each other and weather these challenges. It’s inspirational. And it’s possible.

This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop for April 2018.

Click on the image below to read more!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jessie says:

    I’m about to become an aunt and might become a parent in the next few years, so this post really got me thinking. In this position, it’s a weighty realization that these little people really are looking at us big people to model these things. It reminded me of Calvin’s dad (in Calvin and Hobbes) saying “I don’t think I would have been in such a hurry to be a grown-up if I’d known the whole thing was going to be ad libbed.” But you show your children that the ad libbing is not such a burden!

    As someone who has recently developed a nasty dust allergy (living in a 800 square foot apartment in a building with old ventilation will do that, I guess), I sympathized very much with your dusting example. Here’s a thought I had that could be total nonsense (again, I’m not a parent!) — is there any value to framing it, rather than “you have to do things you don’t want to do,” as “you think you don’t want to do it, but actually you do because you value the results!” Therefore, in a manner of speaking, you never “have to” to anything you don’t want to do. I may think I don’t want to dust, but then I think, well, I hate it when I get bronchitis and/or sinus infections. And I love it when my sinuses are clear and I can, therefore, think straight! So…now all of a sudden I want to dust!

    It worked for me, but I might just be crazy. I’m also not, you know, in elementary school. Maybe this takes a bit more maturity. 😉

    And such healthy ideas about mistakes and failure, too! When I was teaching English in Japan, I taught my students the mantra, “Mistakes are okay!” because otherwise they were too afraid of making a mistake to even begin to utter a sentence in English. It didn’t go very far in overcoming their deep programming over a decade of schooling that getting the right answer was the ultimate point of school, but at least it did seem to get a few more students to dare to open their mouths.

    Great post!


    1. Heather says:

      Thanks, Jessie! I totally agree with you – looking at the finished product and celebrating its value is very important as well. And yes, mistakes are good! I have had some students like that too when I taught in China and elsewhere. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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