A Mistake

September 20th, 2010

First of all, you’ll have to forgive me if I never post here again, because some jerk on Twitter or something mentioned Angry Birds, and then of course I, being an idiot, had to download Angry Birds for my stupid iPhone, and the next thing you know, I BLACKED OUT and woke up with birds grunting in my ear, my iPhone pressed to my face in a sticky, sleep-induced snuggle. Hours I’ve wasted on this stupid thing. Hours. HOURS. Hours of nothing but — wait for it — pulling birds back into a slingshot and shooting them at animated snorting pigs, who are occasionally wearing helmets.

It is so STUPID. I don’t even think I LIKE IT. So what am I doing? Nothing, that’s what. I am angry about Angry Birds.


My sister, twelve years my senior, is the queen of unsolicited advice. I think even she would admit that (and if she’s reading, which she only rarely does, maybe she’ll chime in). I mean, she has advice on EVERYTHING, from the kind of pants I should buy to where I should live, to what the best thing is to do for my daughter in terms of religion. Yes, EVERYTHING. She’s not being an asshole about it — it’s the furthest thing from malicious, actually. She’s just trying to impart her learned wisdom — stuff that worked for her — on me so that I don’t have to make a lot of the same mistakes. Plus, she gives career advice for a living, so it just sort of comes out. It used to drive me nuts, and by nuts, I mean ABSOLUTELY MISERABLY CRAZY OT THE POINT OF HYSTERICAL HYSTERIA OH MY GOD ANN STOP STOP STOP I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT.

Then I became a parent, and … well, shit if I don’t understand what my sister goes through and then some. I don’t want Sam to make any mistakes. I don’t want her to get hurt. I don’t want her to feel that awful, sickening mental crunch when she’s made a horrible mistake, and she can’t fix it, and no one is talking to her because she said the wrong thing and … oh MAN. Here. Here, child. Learn from my mistakes, and let’s do this whole thing perfectly from start to finish, and don’t ever, ever get hurt.

For God’s sake, I can barely let her learn how to use the Cozy Coupe without the bottom in it without showing her how to do it, over and over again until she figures it out (no luck so far), so I remain entirely unclear as to how I’m supposed to let this kid screw up royally on other, bigger things.

Mentioning Florida the other day got me thinking about it — by all accounts, moving there was a huge fuck-up, financially, mentally and otherwise, except for the fact that we learned so much there. Then there was that awful time I became terrifyingly depressed in college and handled it badly and didn’t talk to anyone until I woke up one day and realized I had next to no friends because I was such a doucheface to all of them, and God, it was awful and probably the worst time of my life, except badow! I figured a lot of shit out then, and became a better friend and person.

I opened my mouth and said things I shouldn’t have and hurt people’s feelings, and subsequently learned how not to be a big mouth biznatch if it hurts someone else. I quit jobs, took jobs, made colossal, career-jeopardizing mistakes at work, was mean to boyfriends, friends and family.

I didn’t talk to some of my family members for years, and yes, I mean YEARS, and it was a horrible, crushing mistake, except that our relationship is now better than it ever was before.

I hurt people; I let people hurt me. I did stupid things and got scared and learned never to do those stupid things again because of how close I came to not making it through that stupid thing I did, and sometimes that meant literally not LIVING through that terrible error. I have been a jerk, a bigger jerk than I would have thought myself capable of — sometimes unwittingly, sometimes entirely on purpose — and those are usually the times I learn the most about myself, and how my actions impact other people.

And my marriage! My marriage usually gets better after one of us screws up, even though it sucks at the time, and the thing is, mistakes are good, obviously, provided they aren’t IRREVERSIBLE. I am a better everything because I’ve screwed up so badly at times.

But how do you KNOW? I mean any one of my screw ups could have tipped the scales into the Irrevocable Disaster Zone, and it’s just horrible, the idea of letting my kid take risks. The biggest risk I let her take was going down the hill by herself at the park today, and she flew down so fast her feet couldn’t catch up with her body and KABOOM! Faceplant. Bloody lip. SAD TROMBONE.

I’m not sure I’m cut out for this, you know? I laugh at people who say they aren’t ready to have kids, because the truth is, I say that I wasn’t ready until they laid her on my chest after she was born, and while that is sort of true, I wasn’t really ready until, well, ever.

I am still not ready. I am still clueless, dude, scraping at the very idea of letting her do anything other than sit next to me snuggling with a sippy cup. Letting her leave the house without me? Good God, my parents took her to Trader Joe’s yesterday and I almost had a heart attack, even knowing she’s theoretically safer with them than me (my dad’s a better driver than I am, by a long shot). Standing by and watching while she makes a mistake, even knowing she might recover a better person?

Impossible. I don’t see it happening. Ever. Except that it obviously has to.

Oh, friends. I am so not ready for any of this.

*Fiona Apple

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Entry Filed under: Beeber McSteebs,The anxious anxiety

28 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ruby  |  September 20th, 2010 at 10:03 pm


    It’s Ruby (the twin within). First and foremost, Sam wanted me to tell you something. I told her about this most recent post – I left out the bad language> She said, “We need to tell Mommy that she is the best Mommy in our world. We know she doesn’t want me to get hurt – physically, mentally, emotionally or any other -lly. But she needs to lighten up on herself. I’ll be fine. With so many people that love me and care about me, I’m doing pretty well (or is it pretty good?)”
    I (Ruby) got to go with Nanna & Nonno to Maine for vacation since you wouldn’t let them take Sam. It’s probably a good thing. They didn’t do any kids stuff, except walking on the rocky beaches looking for sea shells and sea glass. It did give me a chance to talk to Nonno about you when you were a little girl. All I can say is I now understand how you love Sam more than anything because Nonno sure does love you and wants to protect you just like you want to protect Sam (and I hope, the twin-within).

    So Mommy, be nice to yourself. You’re doing a” fantastic job”. That’s what I heard Nanna tell Nonno as we were driving to your house from Trader Joe’s.

    Love you Mommy & Daddy,
    Ruby (the twin-within)

  • 2. H  |  September 20th, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Yes, a million times over – YES!

  • 3. Marie Green  |  September 20th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    Oh jeesh, that twin-within thing is so great that I completely forgot what I was going to say.

    Ok, I think I remember now. Yes, I was going to say that I’m a little further (farther?) down the Parenting Road and I can say that the letting go process is a slow, gentle one. I think that’s the only way any of us could bear it- if it happens so slowly and incrementally that we baaaarely notice.

    Also, our kids get to “practice” their mistakes within the safety of our homes, and I really think that helps. For example, Marin has a “best friend” with whom she either plays really well with, or they are fighting the ENTIRE TIME. Both her friend’s mom and I always comment on how their fighting is just their way of safely exploring conflict and relationships. I remind myself of this often, as I watch them, and it’s sooooo true: they are learning, practicing- making mistakes and then doing it over again the right way- already at age 4. It’s a beautiful thing to witness, and I’m so thankful that they have each other to practice on.

  • 4. Suebob  |  September 21st, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Here you go

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  • 7. Jenna  |  September 21st, 2010 at 8:27 am

    I grew up with a father who always tried to keep me from making mistakes, from “failing”, and it still pisses me off. He kept me from learning and problem solving and being anything but dependent on him.

    Why am I telling you this? Are you my new therapist? (You: HELL NO) I’m telling you this because you don’t want Sam to feel that way.

    I sort of perversely delight in watching my girls learn and problem solve (which are other words for “failing” and “making mistakes”).

    Now, watching the 4 year old deal with social issues like teasing and bullying? That is a whole other kettle of fish. MAKE IT STOP. NOW.

  • 8. Kader  |  September 21st, 2010 at 8:38 am

    After I read this, I was trying to think about whether my parents instilled my sense of aversion to physical risk-taking in me. I would say yes, except that my brother doesn’t have that aversion, which leads me to believe that it’s just innate. And then I thought about how I’m kind of an emotional risk-taker (emotionally intense work, emotionally intense friendships, etc.) but my brother isn’t. So…I guess I think that Sam will develop those things on her own–or not. I don’t think modeling the behavior hurts, but I think she’ll end up being willing to learn from some but not most of your mistakes.
    Of course, I’m really just saying these things to myself. My sweet little boy just fell headfirst off his own small chair. I simply can’t do enough to keep him from making “mistakes.” So I’m trying to get used to it. One teeny, tiny step (or fall) at a time

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  • 10. jive turkey  |  September 21st, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I’m not ready either. Nope, no way.

  • 11. Jen  |  September 21st, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    So the Cozy Coupe thing? Avery so cannot move that puppy. We have it in our living room (yes, it’s quite a lovely addition to the ambiance of the room) and she basically just sits in it and fiddles around with the steering wheel. Occasionally we take it out for cruising around the neighborhood, but that always involves me pushing. I’m totally picturing you squeezing into it to show Sam how to move her little feet.

    Reading this made me realize that I do an awful lot to prevent Avery’s mistakes and bumps along the way…but I think that’s also just part of her being our first child. I do wonder how different we will be with our second.

  • 12. april  |  September 21st, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    When I read this post first in the middle of the night, it was all I could do to not reach for my new Android to see if the Angry Birds app was available. I checked this morning and it’s not, so it appears life as I know it will go on. Whew.

    Anyhow, I am the opposite – within known boundaries, I try to let my son work things out himself and I always feel like maybe I seem like a bad mom because I’m very hands-off. Plus, my son always has bruises on his head and skinned knees because I really don’t do a lot of hovering (he also doesn’t cry about his bumps and bruises, so at least that’s good).

    I think it’s all in your parenting style, and either none of it will truly mess up a kid, or all of it will so you may as well do what makes you feel right. I choose to believe we are all doing great jobs as parents. Which we are until they get to be teenagers and tell us we are terrible parents. Because teenagers know everything. :)

  • 13. Leigh  |  September 21st, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Um, I totally get this. I beleieve I have over managed as a parent.

    And also, mine is 16. Apex of “lack of a frontal cortex” idiocy and also supposed to be an adult in a ridiculously short period of time. It is utterly terrifying on a daily basis.

  • 14. Maggie  |  September 21st, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Delurking to agree with Marie Green – the process of letting go and allowing mistakes happens gradually over time so it’s not as horrifying as it seems when they are very little. My son is 7.5 and I try very hard to let him experiment and try and sometimes fail as long as it’s not going to involve permanent injury. He learns his strengths and weaknesses. I learn to take a lot of deep breaths and get plenty of exercise biting my tongue.

  • 15. Kristin  |  September 21st, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Oh, Angry Birds…I am also obsessed. It’s about the only thing I know how to do on my newish iphone. Hours and hours wasted…

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  • 18. babs  |  September 22nd, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Delurking to say that your “I am not ready” line fits me to a tee. My baby is 6 weeks old today and I can definitely say that this new life is still terrifying.

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  • 23. april  |  September 25th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Ahem. There is now a beta version of Angry Birds for Android. I shall not be heard from again.

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