How much courage does it take to tell your children you don’t have the answer?
When I was a child, my mother always had an answer. And, according to her, she was always right. I remember a neighbor asked her once what would happen when her children finally realized that she really didn’t KNOW EVERYTHING. She laughed it off, thinking it would not cause a problem. In later years I found out it didn’t cause a problem for my sister. However, I wasn’t so lucky.
We are all different and we all process information differently. When I finally realized that my mother didn’t know everything, it was a huge emotional blow to me. It literally took me years to get over the fact that my mother was not nearly as wise and intelligent as I had once believed. She wasn’t the All-Seeing Genie I grew up believing she was.
And maybe for that reason I moved in the other direction with my own children. From the very beginning I learned how to say I was wrong. My ex-husband enjoyed it when I practiced on him, because he thought he was right all the time too! But when they came along I knew exactly how to say, I don’t know or I’m sorry I was wrong.
In fact, just this morning I was out for a walk with my dog and God opened up an opportunity for me. Unfortunately, I walked right past it and immediately regretted my decision. After all, God had entrusted this opportunity to me to share his love with someone else and I ignored it.
I didn’t have to and it wasn’t necessary, but when I got home I told my daughter all about it. And I prefaced the story with, “I’m telling you this so you don’t do it yourself. I want you to know where I messed up so that in the future you might not make the same mistake that I did.”
There is a certain power in this vulnerability. There Is power in acknowledging that you don’t know everything, that you make mistakes and that you are still growing as a person. This gives you the power to learn from someone else without feeling as if you’re more vulnerable than you really are.
I think we all get this in the abstract. It’s easy to say that as humans we are all fallible. But, when it comes down to us PERSONALLY making a mistake and owning it – it’s a bit more difficult – a bit more real.
I believe that when we can step outside the fear of being wrong and acknowledge that we really are wrong, it empowers us to move forward and grow in a way you just can’t if you’re always right. After all, if you’re always right – where is the room for growth? There isn’t anywhere to go but down at that point.
A long time ago I had a close friend who played racquetball. My friend was excellent at the game and, in fact so much so, that I refuse to play with them. It wasn’t that I was a bad racquetball player but that I knew I was much worse than my friend. And somehow, making myself vulnerable felt bad. If instead I had approached the situation by asking for help to become a better racquetball player I probably could have gotten in some good games and had some good fun.
In fact, what I found over the years is the time when I am most vulnerable to attack is the point when I am ahead of the game. When I turn it around and become vulnerable I suddenly have more power.
Whether vulnerability with your friends or coworkers is something you want to learn or not, vulnerability with your children is definitely something worth learning. Your children are a lot like computers, they’ll do what you show them to do and not necessarily what you tell them to do.
I remember when I got my first computer. This was before user-friendly operating systems. Everything was run in DOS. Faced with a black screen and computer language I was frequently caught screaming at the screen – “Do what I WANT you to do – NOT what I told you to do!”
Children have this unique ability to see past what you tell them to do and they do what they see you doing. When they see you saying you don’t know, they are more comfortable saying the same and acknowledging it may be time to learn something new.
It’s a short article today because there is a LOT I don’t know and a lot you and my children can teach me.
Thanks for listening!