Last week, I volunteered to help throw a 100th-day-of-school ice cream party in my daughter’s Kindergarten class. I had my day planned down to the minute, and had been organizing it entirely around the 2:15 P.M. time slot for the celebration so that I would arrive with ice cream that wasn’t overly melted. En route at 2:03 p.m., one of the moms in my daughter’s class called to see if I was still coming. “2:15, right?” I asked. “No, we were supposed to be here at 1:45.” Damned if I didn’t speed all the way to school in a mild sweat!
I underwent the usual internal browbeating — how could I have mixed up the time? I should have read the thread more carefully! I’d made 35 little children wait for their ice cream! I apologized and attempted to put on a happy face, but I felt terribly! I was momentarily haunted by a story a friend shared with me years ago. She is self-admittedly clumsy and has broken many glasses and plates while dining with us. One night, she knocked over a champagne flute, and while apologizing profusely, shared that when she’d broken something of her mother’s a few years prior, she’d cried out: “I didn’t mean to!” and her mom had replied: “Sometimes, you have to mean not to.”
I think a lot about that exchange when I make mistakes. “I didn’t mean to!” rarely feels like a proportionate or winning defense, and I have internalized the message that sometimes, you need to be ahead of the curve, working to mean to do things the right way. Pre-empting slip-ups. Elbowing out the possibility of a misstep.
On the drive home from my daughter’s school, I was still digesting my oversight when a quiet voice inside interrupted:
Did the children still eat ice cream?
Was anyone angry or adversely impacted by the delay?
Did everyone still have a good time?
A round of yeses. And I gently let myself off the hook.
Now, I am the first person to celebrate follow-through and commitment. I am very rarely late and I try my best not to cancel on plans unless absolutely necessary. I’ll admit that it ruffles my ego a bit to think that some of the other parents or teachers in my daughter’s class might think of me as the type of person who arrives tardy, or who does not attend to details, or who prioritized other things that afternoon. But, you know what? Maturity is making mistakes and owning them. (There was a petty part of me that wanted to skim through all the emails to figure out how/why I’d had the wrong time down.) Apologizing and moving on. Letting people be wrong about you. Having perspective. (It was ice cream!) Giving yourself and others grace.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve outgrown the defensive urge to cry out: “I didn’t mean to!” (Or to find the part of the email thread that may have caused my error.) But maybe I’m also outgrowing the mentality that “I need to mean not to.” Because what does that message imply? That we are one foresight away from an accident, if we only exert enough care? No. I trust myself. I am organized; I have my heart in the right place; I try my best. That’s enough.
The ice cream party is a frivolous example, but the mentality applies to every domain of my life. I am hard on myself, especially in matters pertaining to parenting. It’s time to learn how to give myself a soft landing when I need it.
+In this post, I talk about a podcast on apologizing that changed my life.
+Jennifer Sumko just launched the prettiest collection with Dillards! I love this animal-print skirt, this seashell blouse, and this elegant capelet midi. Very Agua Bendita-meets-Emilia-Wickstead-meets-Alemais?
+Gap nailed it with this striped shirtdress.
+Attractive scrub brushes.
+Does your little one need this adorable blouse?! Would absolutely wear this myself.
+Wanting to treat myself to these trays for my study.
+Loud, but on my warm weather wish list.
+One of my favorite body lotions (the best scent!) is on sale for 25% off.
+Tempted to order this pretty nightgown for myself.
+A great (quiet) Church activity for a little one.