“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
— Albert Einstein
I know a dad who found himself holding his very active, adorable, three-year-old son at least once a day to keep him safe. He felt horrible. He was sure, that if he were a better father, that he could solve the problem in more creative, and playful ways. Every day, he tried new ideas and every day he ended up having to hold his son. He kept his son safe, but it took a toll on him. Several years later, he overheard his son telling a friend, “when I was little, my dad hugged me every day.”
Sometimes, we feel we are not living up to our expectations as parents, and that we are making mistakes. We think that any other parent could be doing it better. This is particularly true here in Boulder, CO., the land of uber athletes and uber parents. This can be a very lonely feeling.
Mistakes can have benefits that are hard to see at the time. My mother preferred tennis, martinis, and cigarettes to raising small children. When I became a parent, I reacted to my mother by throwing myself into the job with an abundance of energy and anxiety to get it right. I probably overparented my children. It is only now, that I appreciate the freedom my mother’s neglect provided. I could roam the woods and neighborhood at will. I learned, when I fell off my bike, that there were friendly and caring strangers to help. I learned to listen to my own voice. And I wonder what, if any, long-term unforeseen benefits my mistakes of overparenting might have for my children.
We can befriend mistakes by becoming intimate with them, by attending to them and learning from them. We can acknowledge their unintentional and unseen benefits both on and off the mat. We recognize they are a part of life and all parents make mistakes. On the Yoga mat, we pay attention to problems in alignment, moving too fast, or falling over. We attend to our body more closely so we don’t get hurt while we take risks and explore our edge of comfort. As a result our bodies become stronger and more flexible.
Off the mat, with our children, we are faced with multiple opportunities to make and learn from mistakes each day. If we pay attention, take some risks and accept that we will make mistakes, we become stronger and more flexible parents. Our normal mistakes on and off the mat, can teach us about our world and ourselves, making it less likely that we will make really big mistakes later. Lets Practice.
On The Mat—
Ask yourself what pose you have avoided for fear of making a mistake. Commit to working towards that pose by breaking it down, paying attention to your body and building strength. If you pick a handstand, start with down dog near a wall. Practice kicking up one leg several times each day in order to strengthen your back, arms and shoulders. When you are ready, kick up to a handstand at the wall with your feet lightly touching the wall, notice if there is tension in your neck or jaw, make sure you can breathe deeply. Next start to take one leg off the wall. As time goes by, you can practice taking the other leg off the wall while reaching up toward the ceiling with your legs and feet. If you fall, notice to which side, and how if feels to fall. Falling over is your best teacher, and so is getting back up.
Off The Mat—
Consider mistakes that you think your parents made. Are there ways that they benefited you? Has your child ever benefitted from a mistake you thought you made? Are you afraid of making mistakes as a parent? Do you beat yourself up over mistakes made? Can you be more forgiving of yourself? Can you appreciate your efforts? This week bring your attention to mistake making, become intimate with any internal struggle it may express. Notice how you feel when you think you have made a mistake. Become intimate with the mistake using generous curiosity. If you feel embarrassed, simply note that and send yourself compassion. All parents are trying their best and making one mistake after another. You are in good company.
‘May we all feel safe enough to take risks, may we all forgive and be forgiven, may we all be at peace.”
Have you benefited from your own or someone else’s mistakes? Please comment.