85. Mistakes

What about the mistakes we’ve made? How can we make sure our children don’t make them? We don’t want our children to have to deal with the awful consequences we’ve had to deal with. True, we’ve learned from our mistakes, but what is the ultimate use of all that learning if we can’t pass it on to the next generation?
I’m afraid that a lot of the time, we can’t. We can protect our children when they are infants, and then less and less as they grow. It’s frustrating hearing words and witnessing deeds you said and did long ago and long ago learned that they didn’t work, and then wishing you could give young people your experience without their having to experience it.
But there’s another way of looking at this. The consequences of what we now call our mistakes, and whatever wisdom we’ve gained, may be prevalent in our minds, but the reasons for those mistakes may also have been formidable. If I remember correctly, some of the mistakes I’ve made were fun, and were made at times when fun was a top priority for me. I didn’t try psychedelic drugs during the sixties (No, really – I didn’t! You don’t have to believe me.), but many of the people I knew who were trying them seemed to be enjoying them. Some of them have children now, and don’t want their children to have anything to do with those drugs. Some of them don’t want their children to know that part of their parents’ history.
I think the children should know. They should not only know that we’ve made what we consider mistakes, and that we’ve dealt with consequences; they should even know why we made those mistakes. Perhaps peer pressure played a role. Perhaps it was part of our assertion of independence. And maybe it was fun.
It’s too bad that some mistakes are so much fun. When people ask for a quick summary of the dietary restrictions I follow to try to control MS, I say, “I don’t eat anything that tastes good.” While this is an exaggeration, I’ll bet many of you identify with the statement. Life isn’t neatly arranged so that doing constructive things makes us feel pleasure and doing destructive things makes us feel pain. Too bad. But I don’t think we stand a chance of tricking our children into thinking so.

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