"I'm not perfect," I told my teen. "I made a mistake, and I'm sorry." Still, as we sat down for dinner, Super Bowl hum in the background, my daughter continued to make her point. Yes, she was right, but that wasn't the point I wanted to make. "Listen," I told her. "We are all imperfect. I can't go back and fix it, but I will try harder next time, and I am sorry I disappointed you."
I wanted this conversation to be over, and yet, it wasn't. I tried again.
"When you are upset over your own mistakes, or failures, I don't yell at you over and over again, do I?" I asked, in my leading, let-me-teach-you-a-lesson voice, "instead we talk about how you can make a change, and do better going forward." Soon the incident was forgotten, soothed over by Chris Martin, Beyonce, and Bruno. All was good and happy again in our household.
I fell asleep thinking about my daughter, and the constant high standards she holds herself to -- the same standards she was holding me to that very night. And how in these very situations what we both need is more kindness, and how I had to stop and tell her how much her words hurt.
I woke up this morning, still thinking about empathy and kindness and imperfection and then began to read the outcry of criticism over Cam Newton and his post-Super Bowl interview. I watched the interview while I drank my coffee. I didn't see the arrogance or pouting or even outrageously bad behavior. I saw heartache, imperfection, a sense of failure, dejection and yeah, some mounting frustration. Cam Newton knew he failed. He didn't need to hear about it over and again, with each new question and stat thrown his way. His truth was still new and already tearing him apart.
He did the work, he failed and he showed up to talk about it. And for a generation of kids who were paying attention, I don't think he modeled outrageously bad behavior either. I think he was real and hurting and maybe to those kids who have seen him unapologetically dance and dab across the field, a former picture of perfection and confidence, they now saw something new. They saw something real, and raw, someone who deserves some kindness and the understanding that you can't win all the time. Sometimes you lose, and it really hurts and you just have to move on and maybe make a change and grow from the experience.
In today's parenting world of highly over-stressed, every kid gets a trophy, overachieving kids- maybe seeing failure close up is the real life lesson of kindness and imperfection we all need.