I remember in 5th grade, I was very aware when things were not fair. Was it possible that thing in my 5th grade class and school were particularly unfair?
But then I read a book where the main character was also in 5th grade–by Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary–and that girl kept saying my catch phrase “It’s not fair!”
And I thought, maybe this is something that 5th graders do.
My daughter is in 4th grade. Her phrase right now is “I”M SORRY!”
At first the phrase was very intense, followed with a stream of unstoppable words. “I’m sorry what did I do wrong did I make a mistake I knew I made a mistake what did I do wrong I’m sorry”
Apparently she had tasted the fruit of the tree of shame and guilt. This is not a flavor I want for my daughter.
“Veronica, it’s okay to make mistakes. I make a million mistakes a day.”
She narrowed her eyes at me. “How is that possible? There is not enough time in the day to make a million mistakes.”
My girl has a literal math mind.
“Oh, you have no idea how good I am at making mistakes.”
But the thing is, I don’t want to stay in mistakes. I want to recognize them and correct them. I want to move past them as quickly as possible. That’s what I want for Veronica.
Just the year before she could do that. Something changed.
“Bunny, what you are doing is not really a mistake. It’s more of an oops. It’s okay. You don’t have to feel so bad about it. Everyone does oops when they are doing something new or something hard. It’s okay.”
So now, I get to tell her that she is doing something wrong when she howls I”MSORRYI”MSORRY! I wish I had a magic wand, but I don’t. So I have to tell her that she is wrong to think she’s wrong.
She still howls I’m sorry, but the recovery period is shorter. Which is a change in the right direction.
Brene Brown says that the lifetime shame scars set in in grade schools. That creativity is shamed for most people at this age. I can want for her what I would want for myself:
The ability to shake off the imposed standards and have a friendly internalized standard for evaluating my efforts.
Grade school and adult life as well can feel very powerless if we let other people have the power of telling us if we are ok.