“I’m a mistaker,” he says, stopping me cold in my steps, all my attention on that small sentence.

At four, his grammar isn’t fully developed so my husband corrects him. “You mean you made a mistake.”

“Yeah, I put it here.” He holds out the lego car he’s building from the attached instruction book, to get the piece pulled off so he can try again.

Later I leave the room to let the tears fall. I can’t explain it to them, as I barely understand myself. That one simple sentence touched a nerve I didn’t know was exposed.

My counselor advised me in a session to make sure I don’t talk in absolutes. Eliminate the ‘always’ and ‘nevers’ and focus on the present. And when I stray, to correct myself and bring myself back to the moment.

Suddenly I realize how much I try to control the outcomes by making snap judgements, rushing to always and never, and jumping to conclusions.

Better to judge myself lacking now than have it surprise me later. Better to never trust someone’s word than be broken in blind faith. Better to see things in black and white because I can’t control the grey.

Because if I don’t give them a chance, they can’t let me down.

Because if I don’t take a chance, I can’t let myself down.

But his voice, small and absolute, means that I’ve passed these tendencies on. At four it’s hard to know if it’s nature or nurture at this point, but I understand that nurture takes the stage from here on out. I can lead by example, and teach him… what?

“We all make mistakes sometimes,” I offer. “But you’re doing so good at following your instructions. At least we can try again.”

But he’s already on to the next steps, and so focused, I’m not sure he hears me. My awakening won’t fix my tendencies overnight. I’m sure I will have lots of opportunities to model my efforts.

I’m not a mistaker, but I do make mistakes. Sometimes. After all, I can’t jump to absolutes to define myself anymore.

I just have to pull the pieces apart and try again.

Your turn

What absolutes do you need to shake?