2019-01-01

Even Mistakes Demarcate Success


This is an odd sentiment, but one worth mentioning. Perhaps my daughter will read it one day.

Yesterday, she was rough-housing with her mother. I was in the adjacent room, reading a book, so I'm not entirely clear on what happened, but I heard it, whatever it was. Apparently my daughter had taken to pulling on her mother's hair, thinking it was an innocent part of the overall game. Her mother repeatedly demanded that she stop, and at last her patience was exhausted and she gave my daughter a bit of a tongue-lashing.

I don't like it when either of us raise our voices to our child, but I could tell from what I had heard that my daughter had legitimately done wrong, so I stood up, walked into the room, and wordless picked my daughter up and carried her into the quiet room I use for discipline.

Usually, it takes my daughter some time to calm down before we can progress to the actual talking about things and resolving the matter. This time was different. She sat quietly on my lap. She actually leaned into me for emotional support. I gently held her in my arms and very calmly asked her about her feelings. I asked her if she understood why she needed to listen to her mother, and when she shook her head and said that she didn't really understand the situation, I explained it as softly as I could.

Then, something remarkable happened.

What usually happens is that my daughter waits for me to ask her to apologize for what she's done, and gets up and does so. She waits because apologizing is unpleasant, because she doesn't always feel genuinely sorry, because she can be stubborn and resistant sometimes. She doesn't always see eye-to-eye with me.

But this time, she didn't wait. She didn't delay. She got up from my lap, all on her own, sheepishly walked over to her mother, and apologized. She apologized voluntarily, and she was specific about what she was apologizing for. She apologized for being too rough and for not listening to her mother. She gave a full, complete apology, and she made things right, all without being asked or instructed to do so.

She's four, so this is hard. For that matter, I know adults who would have taken pains to avoid such an apology.

So, here's the odd sentiment: I was so proud of her! I was so pleased that wanted to make things right, all on her own. I was so happy that she cared enough about her mother's experience that she wanted to make it right. Not only did she do the right thing, she did so for the right reasons, all on her own.

I'm so happy about it that I'm still thinking about a day later. Again, this strikes me as a bit of an odd sentiment, but I wanted to make sure I described it, to articulate and preserve it in hopes that someone else will see it some day.

One of the truly amazing things about children is that they make you happy even as they misbehave. For every minor infraction, you can see clear marks of personal growth. My daughter will be a wonderful woman some day. I consider myself fortunate to be able to watch her grow into that fate.