My son’s unexpected text read, “Mom, I’m done. Please come get me.”
“What?” I thought. “How could the meeting be over already?” For weeks, my son had been anticipating attending a mandatory meeting for potential class officers. I hurried to the high school only to find out from my son that the meeting had occurred the day before. He was devastated. He had listed the meeting date on our family calendar the day he heard about it because he was so excited to run. But sadly, he got the date wrong.
We approached the administration that afternoon asking for an exception, but they answered, “No.” I remember distinctly feeling deep disappointment for my son because he wanted to run so badly and had planned it for years. I was also personally sad because our family wouldn’t get to celebrate his victory. I was sure he would have won, and we love to celebrate.
As I walked to my car in the school parking lot, this inspiration came to my mind: “Celebrate anyway. Celebrate his mistake and what he learned from it. Life is about learning. Celebrate the learning – not just the successes.”
At dinner, I surprised my son and family with a cookies and cream cake they love. I called it the “Mistake Cake” and explained we were going to celebrate our mistakes by learning from them. Happily downing the creation, my son then told the family about what he had done wrong and what he’d learned from it. We talked about what he could do in the future to avoid making a similar error, enjoyed the cake, and decided that our family’s mistakes now had a yummy chocolate lining.
Quickly, the other children clamored to know if any of their mistakes warranted a Mistake Cake. “Not yet, “ I said. “You have to make a mistake big enough to learn a really good lesson.” As of that night, our family shifted from trying to avoid mistakes to finding joy in learning from mistakes when they occurred.
We have celebrated mistakes often since then. One time we celebrated one of my whopping errors so the kids would know parents err too. Another time, we celebrated one of our daughter’s mistakes but chose not to divulge what it was to the family because of its private nature. But we still celebrated what she learned.
The following month, one daughter didn’t make the school volleyball team. My husband decided we needed a way to celebrate our children’s attempting new things. Trying was different than making a mistake. If one of our children didn’t get cast in a show, make a team, or win an election, we could still celebrate the learning that accompanies trying. We enjoyed our first “Try Pie” that night. It was a delicious, homemade key lime pie. The kids then began striving for Try Pies as they attempted to develop new talents.
At last, one daughter actually got cast in a part she had worked hard to get. “Hey, what do I get?” she asked. “I didn’t make a mistake, and I did more than try. I made it!” “I Scream for Joy” ice cream became the final treat in our celebration triad.
In spite of putting on some pounds, we love learning from our mistakes, tries, and successes. Learning itself has become the treat.