7 July, 2015
Food for thought
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ― Albert Einstein
“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” Miss Frizzle called out as I pestered my kids to erase the mistakes in their written assignments. The quote above is often repeated by the main character of the show Magic School Bus, Miss Frizzle. Magic School Bus is an educational television show for children.
I paused for a moment, “why can’t I ask my kids to make mistakes and teach like Miss Frizzle?” Life isn’t about avoiding mistakes but rather grasping the idea that mistakes will come your way and being willing to learn from these mistakes.
I was instilling fear in them by being an over protective parent. Every time I prevent them from failing, I was restricting their ability to make their own decisions. Resolved to take action, I reversed my attitude towards making mistakes. If we want to teach life skills, as parents we ought to have the nerve to let our children fall without trying to pick them up.
Mistakes teach us to take responsibility. “If I don’t pack my homework folder I will be in big trouble,” mumbled my seven-year old as he crammed his things in his backpack before rushing to school.
The boys were bewildered each time I called out Miss Frizzle’s quote, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” I laminated the quote and posted on the refrigerator. Teaching this valuable lesson was not easy, but I was determined.
I read to my children that Einstein is rumored to have flunked math for years; Steve Jobs was fired from the company he started, only to return a few years later and take Apple to new heights; Walt Disney himself was fired early in his career by a newspaper editor who told him that he “had no imagination and no good ideas.”
Taught my kids about the accidental discoveries; inventions that were mistakes, Chocolate chip cookies were a dessert recipe gone wrong. In 1930, Ruth Graves Wakefield was baking a batch of chocolate cookies for her customers, when she apparently ran out of her regularly used chocolate and had to dump in Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate chips instead. The chips did not melt as planned thus, the Chocolate chip cookie was born; the most popular variety in America today. It is said Mrs. Wakefield sold the recipe to Nestle in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate chips.
My heart sank as my boys and my husband made faces when they had the first bite of the chocolate chip cookies I had diligently baked. I even packed a few to my neighbor Maria who loves my cookies. “Mama, you forgot to add sugar,” they wailed in unison. Mistakes wake us up and focus our attention like a flashing sign that says, “Fix this”.
Recollecting the story of Potato chips that was the result of an angry chef, I sprinkled some powdered sugar on them and stormed off the kitchen. My disappointment did not last for long as a few minutes later my little girl whispered in my ears, “Mama, we loved the snow cookies you baked for us.”
I thanked the picky, dissatisfied customer in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for the invention of the famous snack food, Potato chips. In 1853, chef George Crum fed up with a customer who continuously sent his fried potatoes back, complaining that they were soggy and not crunchy enough, sliced the potatoes as thin as possible, fried them in hot grease, then doused them with salt – and potato chips were invented!
I stopped panicking when my 11-year-old texted me to bring his pencil-case to school as he had forgotten to pack it for his Math test. My overprotective instinct was to pick the car keys and zoom to school before the Math test so that my son could have the equipment required for his test, but I resisted my innate desire. Something held me back. I was thinking, “let him see the consequences of his actions.” Letting kids mess up is tough and painful, but it helps them learn how to fix slip-ups and make better decisions next time.
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw.
Many people, when faced with a big mistake, begin to retreat. We can use the failure as evidence that we are growing, risking, and stretching to meet our potential. When was the last time you took a chance, made a mistake or got messy? To this day, Miss Frizzle’s words echo in my mind: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” Oh Miss Frizzle, I took your words to heart.