I was Clara in “The Nutcracker.” My 9-year-old aspiring ballerina self’s first real ballet! I felt so special, elated to have been selected for the role. Except we had an important rehearsal on the same weekend that my parents had planned a camping trip. Miss Jan was very clear with my mom: if I missed the rehearsal, I would be out of the show and they would find a new Clara. My mom was miffed but she wrote out the rehearsal schedule. The family went camping and left me with a neighbor. The show must go on, after all, and there would be other family trips.
Except, I lost that schedule. So I dutifully copied it off the studio door when I was there for regular class.
Except, I managed to copy it incorrectly…and missed that rehearsal. Miss Jan reprimanded me. “Your mother went out of her way to make sure you would be here! How could you be so irresponsible?” I was crumbling inside the rest of the weekend. I didn’t tell the neighbor. I didn’t tell my mom. Miss Jan called her on Monday. Mom was mad at me for losing the schedule, for missing rehearsal, but mostly for not telling her. But how could I tell her? I had made a mistake that was going to cost me the most important thing that had ever happened to me! Would Miss Jan really replace me?
“I don’t know,” my mom said. “You will have to ask her.”
I endured the entire hour’s ballet class Monday night with no indication of my fate. As I curtsied to Miss Jan at the end of class, I whispered, “Should I come to rehearsal tomorrow?” She gave me a confused look and replied, “Of course. Why wouldn’t you?”
I nearly collapsed from the relief.
I told my husband that story last week, had never told it to anyone ever, as we discussed whether we could trace certain personality traits to events in our lives. I trace my tendency to double/triple check everything for accuracy, to proofread fourteen times when two would do, and other rather obsessively “make sure I do it right” behaviors to that event. As I finished the story and the message I took from it, my lightbulb went off at the same time that my husband said, “It’s interesting that you took the message of ‘Don’t screw up’ from that event because really, what happened was, your teacher forgave you and gave you another chance.”
Wow. The message I should have taken wasn’t the one that stayed with me and influenced my mindset about mistakes. Reflecting on this has pointed me toward some important questions:
*When we’re parenting on autopilot, what message do we inadvertently send our children about mistakes?
*How can we make sure that the message we think we’re sending is the one they receive?