via Piccsy

I learn a lot about me, my younger self and self-esteem through my relationship with my daughters. They’ve taught me to be more self-compassionate, patient, empathetic and loving, because not only do I think about how their childhood experiences are shaping their current and future self-esteem, but I also recognise how easy it is to go down a path of forming inaccurate beliefs if you’re not listening, watching and having an ongoing dialogue with them.

The nurturing of my girls is what I have to practice on myself but also what I encourage readers to do. I regularly ask people who just won’t stop giving themselves a hard time about something from their childhood or that they’re experiencing now, “Is this how you would speak to your own child? Would you blame a child for that same experience and if not, why are you still blaming you?”

We have to be careful about the way we speak to ourselves and the thoughts we choose to fill our heads with. If we don’t intercept the negativity, our thoughts feel and look like facts and we become convinced that we are everything that we think.

Today my five-year old was upset because she’d had an ‘accident’ just as she was coming out of school, due to not wanting to disturb her teacher and say that she needed the bathroom (fear of being in trouble). We got home as soon as possible without fuss while talking about how to avoid situations like this by not leaving it till the last minute or worrying too much about being in trouble and she seemed OK as she threw herself into puddle jumping and laughing. Once home, I got both girls showered and changed into their PJs and seeing that she was deep in thought I asked her if she needed to talk and she dissolved into tears. She was worried that making a mistake meant that she was a “bad person” and then took things to the nth degree by claiming that she couldn’t get anything right.

My heart hurt for her and I immediately sought to make her feel better by explaining ‘mistakes’ and trying my best to allay her fears. In that moment I saw the many stories of readers flash past me as well as my own and I realised that it’s moments like this that if left unaddressed, can start laying the path to unhealthy beliefs.

“First of all, everybody makes mistakes”, I told her.

“Really?”, she said wide-eyed with surprise.
“I stayed dry today!” piped up Nia so I had to give her the side eye…
“Yes. There is nobody on this planet that doesn’t make mistakes and your accident was an accident not a mistake. Your daddy makes lots of mistakes, as does…” cue a list of pretty much everyone who means the world to her. “And do you know what? I’ve made lots of mistakes; lots of them. I don’t want you to ever think for one moment that nobody else isn’t making mistakes, that you’re not loved or that mistakes mean that you’re in big trouble and not good at anything.” I then gave her a list of the many things that she’s good at and she admitted that she does get lots of things “right”.

I told her about how mummy has turned all of her mistakes into her dream job and that I write ‘stories’ so that people can find out all about my mistakes and how I learned from them and that I also listen to their stories and learn from their experiences.

I’ve been that kid, the deep thinker who puts two and two together and makes four hundred. I told her dad what she’d said. “She didn’t get that [habit] from me!” and it’s true because he and so far Nia, don’t really go for the deep introspection and worry. Nia (three almost four going on thirty-five) leaves you in no doubt as to how she is feeling at any given moment and is far less concerned with being “good”.

It was also important to stress to Saria that she’s a kid and that she’s not always going to get things right first time or even several times whether she’s a child or an adult. I explained potty training them when they were younger and they fell around laughing.

Making ‘mistakes’ is how she learns – if she sees it as a terrible thing it will affect her learning and growth. It’s the same when you’re an adult. Yes it may feel like the stakes are higher (and sometimes they are) but mistakes, even ‘silly’ ones, pave the way to success. When you fear making mistakes, you not only end up suppressing who you truly are and giving you a hard time, but you limit you and don’t allow you to be vulnerable.


A lot of the time, it’s not the mistake that’s so much of an issue; it’s not admitting it and then the whole snowballing out of control due to the knock-on effect. We get in far deeper than we really need to.

How will you know what is and isn’t working for you if you won’t listen, watch, and act upon feedback? How will you learn anything?

As adults, we might not always have someone on hand to catch us when we falter and our minds get too busy and judgmental thinking the absolute worst of ourselves and taking it to a ‘ten’ on the catastrophic drama Richter scale when it really doesn’t need to be. There is however one person who is always there to catch these negative trains of thought and inject some compassion by listening with love and that person is you.

Your thoughts?

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71 Responses to Lessons From Parenting My Five-Year Old: Why Mistakes Don’t Make You A ‘Bad Person’ & Why They’re Needed For Growth

  1. yoshizzle says:

    just now recalled how my mum did in a weird way communicate to me that my self worth was questionable if others were being critical.

    strange. i noted that bcos of your talk about your daughter and how i take every opportunity to pump her up. I thought “well she IS gorgeous and talented and slim and smart ” etc and then i realized WaIT A MINUTe — SO WAS *I* — back when my mum encouraged me to doubt myself due to others feedback. why would a mum not think her daughter was amazing and capable? strange.

    • yoshizzle says:

      i meant that i take every opportunity to pump up MY daughter. she’s 16 and i’ve always reinforced how freakin awesome she is.

      • TammyT says:

        yoshizzle, my mother did the same thing. She was only giving praise if someone else did first. Other than that she was always cutting me down.

        My daughter is 17 and I’ve always reinforced how awesome she is as well. That kid has WAY more confidence and self esteem than I ever did at that age because of our interactions.

        I think it’s safe to say our moms made sure to break us down because they were too consumed with their insecurities and miserable. That and narcissistic.

  2. Revolution says:

    Awwwwwwwww Natalie. Dammit, there’s something in my eye.

    What a sweet story, thanks for writing it out for us. And for the bigger lesson you have conveyed.

    Just last weekend, I went to see my 10-year old niece in a play, and when I hugged her goodbye I whispered into her golden hair, “You are beautiful, smart, and kind.” Her cheeks colored pink, I noticed, and she gave me a shy smile. I want to have a part in building those moments that will help her weather the storms of growing up into adulthood. I know that my mother did the same with me; she never wavered in her love and absolute confidence that I had every ability to make my life and myself successful. I don’t know why I didn’t glob onto that as fact, but instead started to doubt myself at every turn. But still, if she hadn’t been such a strong, positive influence to me, it would have been a lot more difficult of a fight (with myself).

    I constantly have to tell myself “Start from today” when I feel I’ve made a small or not-so-small error. Life really is just a series of falls and rises. Even the Bible says that the righteous and the wicked both fall, but the righteous keep getting back up.

    • Jule says:

      Aw Rev, cool story about your niece too. I like how you say life is series of falls and rises. :)

    • beth d says:

      Awee Nat that story made me tear up. Your daughter sounds so adorable. It made me think about my mom. When I was very young, I came home so upset one day because one of the little girls in my class had an accident. I went to Catholic grammar school and the nuns were scary. This girl was afraid to ask the teacher because they were never good about giving bathroom permission. They wanted you to wait till break time. My mom said to me. If you have to go to the bathroom and the nun gives you trouble you get right up from your seat and go. Tell them your mom gave you permission and to call me if they have a problem. I told my girls the same thing when they were young. It took a burden off of them like it did me when my mom told me. It’s funny how stories like this make you think. I was always so much closer to my dad than my mom. He was a fun, gregarious, warm person and my mom was more pragmatic and not as affectionate. I worshiped my dad to the poiny of not giving my mom credit for the amazing woman she was. I now appreciate her so much and the many life lessons she taught me many of which I pass on to my girls. I really don’t think I understood her until I became a mom myself.

  3. Poppy says:

    Wow, I remember getting a dam good hiding for my mistakes or accidents. I think a lot of the reasons why I want children so badly is to give them all the love and respect i can possibly give them and help them to live a life that is not full of fear.

    Many of us say it but for me, today, this popst is timely. I was driving to work criticising and mocking myself for the stupidity and blind eye behaviour that I had in my last relationship. Kicking myself and generally being down right rude to me and here it is – just at the right time.

    You seem like a fantastic Mum

  4. Magnolia says:

    Lovely story; it really does make you think about what happens if a little kid is left alone to process these moments with only a kid’s guidance again and again. In the moment you showed her how to both accept that she had made a mistake but that it’s hardly the end of the world, and even the basis for all kinds of progress. Laughed out loud at Miss Nia!

    • beth d says:

      “Lovely story; it really does make you think about what happens if a little kid is left alone to process these moments with only a kid’s guidance again and again.”

      This is so true. Nat’s comforting words to her daughter are one of the life lessons our moms pass on to us that we never forget, bolster our confidence and will most likely get passed to the next generation.

  5. selkie says:


    This story about your daughter especially touched me as it reminds me of my bed wetting days as a child and how my father handled it. He spanked me every morning, starting when I was three years old. I remember resorting to lying in cold wet pee and pretending I was asleep so I could avoid getting spanked. He would pull my pants down ( I remember being humiliated by this mostly, even at this early age ) and spank my bare bottom, every morning. What makes matters worse, we had no indoor plumbing and the outhouse was at least 50 feet behind the house. I’ve had bladder issues my whole life and it was probably part of my problem when I was three. I didn’t pee in my bed on purpose, I always woke up in wet sheets. I did this until I was twelve, although he had abandoned the spanking by then. Your story makes my heart brim over with appreciation at how tender and kind you were with your daughter. I have no doubt your two girls will grow up to be healthy, self esteemed, and ready to take the world by it’s tail. I so admire you.

    I am better than I was at forgiving myself for the mistakes I make, but I have to admit I wonder what you think about us sometimes. I’ve been on here commenting for over two years, like a few others. I changed my name, so others may not remember my back story, but I know you know who each of us is and how many times we come on here confessing our latest stumble or feeling high from our latest epiphany. Yet for all the times we have come here wounded from our latest mistake, you still have compassion and kindness for us too. I think you must have the patience Job.

    • selkie says:

      On a lighter note, the next time I am faced with making a decision that I know is a mistake (like talking to an EUM ex), I’m going to picture you looking at me with the ‘sideways eye’. Then I’ll forgive myself for not having my own best interest at heart and get on with the better choice.

    • beth d says:

      Selkie! That’s awful! I am so sorry your dad did that to you. What did your mom say about his behavior????

      • selkie says:

        I don’t remember, but she tells me now that it infuriated her. She was a victim of him too. She has told me she was so wrecked and wrapped and up in his emotional abuse that she knows she neglected us kids sometimes.

        • EllyB says:

          This woman has written a lot on this topic:

          • selkie says:


            Thanks for the link. Lots of interesting info there.

            • EllyB says:

              Ironically, psychologists say that child abuse often CAUSES bed wetting. I remember doing it too. If parents then proceed to punish their kids for this, what a vicious circle.

              • selkie says:

                I can see that. Life was upside down in my house from an early age. I’m sure that the instability in my life at that age contributed to the bed wetting. My Mom was in some kind of survival mode in her own world and I learned to be too, while growing up. Thinking deep about all these things makes me worry that my issues are bigger than I know how to fix. I feel normal when I’m single and not recovering from a broken heart, but when I start to grow close to someone I start to experience a lot of fear.

        • beth d says:

          She sounds like she didn’t have the courage to confront him as she was abused herself. Sad situation. I was so angry and sad for you when I read your post. :( I had a brother with bed wetting problems and my parents patiently went out of their way to try and work with him until he outgrew it which he did. None of us were allowed to mention it so he wouldn’t feel bad.

  6. soozannah says:

    This is very inspiring Natalie. I hope that I can learn from this and be more compassionate towards myself and the mistakes I make/have made. I often wonder to myself if I ever have kids how will I deal with this situation or that situation. I hope that if/when that day arrives I can approach it in the same compassionate, loving and caring way you have shown here. x

  7. Allie says:

    “We have to be careful about the way we speak to ourselves and the thoughts we choose to fill our heads with. If we don’t intercept the negativity, our thoughts feel and look like facts and we become convinced that we are everything that we think.”

    This is exactly what we are learning on our bible study. The book is “the battle of the mind” and one of the most important lessons is “think about what you are thinking about”. Our mind and toughts are powerful and can build us or destroy us.

    • Little Star says:

      Allie, exactly as you said: “Our mind and thoughts are powerful and can build us or destroy us”! I was thinking about it recently, I always blame myself for mistakes/ACs and even hate myself from time to time. I remember when I had a goal, I was so determined, positive and usually achieved what I wanted, but for now I am stuck, and the mainly because of negative thinking about myself…I currently work on my body (Pilates, yoga, zumba) and hopefully one day I will stop blaming/regretting and start loving/caring about myself:)

      • shattered says:

        I too find it difficult to forgive myself for my involvement with the ex AC/narc. I broke NC so many times – falling for his BS that we’d do more together, how much he enjoyed being with me….each time it just ended up in bed, then he’d disappear for a while…until the next time. I’m ashamed with myself for believing all his lies, but it was what I wanted to hear at the time. He must have been laughing his socks off. I hope to get over the shame and anger that I now feel, but think it will take a while. Meanwhile he’s off on his merry go round of women without any remorse for me. I almost wish he would contact me, so that I could ignore him. Its hard to know that I’ve been taken for a fool, when I have a responsible job, men find me attractive and I had a long and happy marriage to my late husband. I know the best revenge is to live my life to the full – just finding it hard at the moment.

        • beth d says:

          Shattered Please forgive yourself because you only were believing in the goodness of another human being when there was no good. There is a good chance you will hear from him. Narcs usually come sniffing around and then you will have your chance. If not be glad you have rid your life of this parasite! Upwards and onwards :)

        • Little Star says:

          Shattered welcome to my club:( we had the same situations, but at least we realized NOW we do not want to waste anymore time with ACs!!! MY ex AC sent me three messages since NC (8 words in total!!!)and I decided not to answer:) Time is the best healer, try to keep yourself busy Shattered and one day we will wake up free of ACs:) Hugs!

          • Poppy says:

            Yes I am going through the same. I am at the stage where I am accepting the break up. Although, like you Shattered my story is very similar. The amount of times I promised myself not to go back, not to sleep with him, not to allow his behaviour, lies and hollow promises to get under my skin I did. I’m just so tired of grieving it all and punishing myself when he couldn’t give a rats posterior about any of it. Basically, and it boils down to self esteem from childhood issues and beating myself up for mistakes. Stay strong, it really is time I just wish I didn’t feel so stupid being left in the shelf while he has taken all his down!

          • shattered says:

            Beth and Little Star – I’ll be OK and will try to put the whole ghastly experience behind me. I know we’ve all been through similar things – that’s why we read BR- trying to make sense of it all. I guess we never will. Its good to know I’m not alone. I can’t talk about it to anyone – they’d be horrified at what I put up with. I’m horrified myself! As you say, onwards and upwards.

    • Moving On says:

      Allie, who is the author of the book you mentioned? I saw a couple of books with similar titles, but not the same title. Thanks.

  8. Trying to look ahead not behind says:

    Thank you for sharing Natalie. It sounds like a great parenting moment. I love those times I can boost my little girl up with stuff like that to let her know it’s ok to be human and she is lovable and wonderful and she can learn from these lessons.

    I should take some of my own advice. I frequently think back on a grave mistake I made when I was married and I’m still beating myself up over it. In the last year of my very tumultuous 13 year relationship with my now ex H (he was emotionally unavailable and alcoholic), I let someone else creep into my life. :( It was clear that my H was disinterested in me or who I really was. He didn’t want sex much and he didn’t seem to love me anymore. I’m not blaming him for my bad choice, because it was MY bad, but I also think I needed affection and I must have been starving for it. He talked a few times of divorce when our little girl was only a few months old. I was devastated because honestly, I pretty much had the baby for him. I must have known deep down that the relationship needed saving. After having our daughter, I seemed invisible to him. I told him once how I felt and he said it was ridiculous to be jealous of a one year old. Well cheating was something I never would have considered in the past. Ever. I was so against that and never would want to hurt anyone. And it didn’t happen overnight or even in a month or two…it was slow yet progressive with emotional emails and it eventually took over my life. It was all consuming like a fire and it tore through my life and all that I had built :( My h didn’t know. He was used to me sleeping on the couch because of his snoring and didn’t seem phased by the fact that I moved out of the marital bed into my own room. He didn’t seem to mind it at all actually. He didn’t know about the affair and he was ultimately was the one who decided to abandon me and so we jointly decided the relationship was over. I think when I had stopped trying to hold the marriage together and mirrored what he had been to me for so long, the marriage fell apart. My h never found out and I ended the affair right after the marriage ended. I no longer felt a need for it. I am still very torn up over doing that at all. I have definitely learned from it and try to look ahead but it’s very hard because now I wonder to myself who the hell I was in that last year. It was like I wasn’t myself at all. My h and I are friends now and he is engaged to someone else. Meanwhile, I’m still putting the pieces together and really hoping I’m not forever cursed for doing such a bad thing. I can’t seem to meet anyone special and sometimes I think it’s because of bad karma. I know, it’s time to forgive myself and move on right? It’s time…

    Easier said than done.

    • Ellen says:

      Your story is a sad one. Forgive yourself. Let it go…we all make mistakes. We all want to feel loved, wanted and needed. Clearly your ex H couldn’t give that to you, or you couldn’t give that to yourself, so you went outside of your marriage. It happens. Don’t continue to beat yourself up over this. Close that chapter and turn the page. Good luck to you.

    • digs says:

      Trying, it’s time to forgive yourself. It’s not karma. It’s you, not believing that you deserve love. You most certainly do derserve love.

      I feel your pain…I cheated – not something that I *ever* thought I would do. It was wrong, and I hurt a lot of people, and tore up two families. It took me four years and therapy to forgive myself. My ex-husband moved on from it long before I did.

      Forgiving yourself does not mean that you are not sorry that you did it. It does not mean that you think it’s no big deal. It does not mean that you take it lightly. It does not mean that you will do it again. It means that you recognize that you are a human being, capable of making mistakes. You made choices based on what you knew and needed at the time. Period. You are not a bad person and you do not deserve bad things. What a shame and a waste to stay in that place. It is truly time to move on from your guilt and shame. You know who you really are.

      • amanda says:

        Definitely, Tired, you are not a bad person. I went through a similar story to yours, also with a life-partner initialed “H”. He had a person-sized hole within him that translated into bottomless need. I couldn’t give him the unconditional Mommy love he needed, so he turned on me and was controlling and emotionally abusive. IN the last year of our relationship, after a devastating verbal argument, I gave up and started an emotional affair with a friend. After months, it grew momentarily physical, but that, alone, was a “wake up call”, and the affair ended badly. (My “friend” was kind of a narc). I never told my H what had happened (he was working in the field for much of that time). I tried to repair our relationship, but found, once again, that I was the only one willing to do the work. Tragically, cosmically, H died in an accident while working in the field. I then went through a most complicated grief. I was totally emotionally unavailable and I guess its not surprising that I had a long relationShit with a married man in the years that followed. Now, after years of therapy, I am finally coming to a place of closure. I’ve had a string of bad relationships, each one reinforcing my baggage, but I am ready for the tide to turn. My only advice would be to procede slowly back into the world of dating. Gauge your availability. Seek counseling, if you can, even if you feel “ok”. You’ve been through a long trauma.

    • natashya says:

      trying, our stories have definite similarities. i too, was a major AC (and EUW) during my marriage to an EU alcoholic. i too, let someone else creep into my life and marriage and i quickly ended the marriage (and later the rebound relationship).

      while i was doing it, i didn’t feel very guilty about it. however, when i was unceremoniously dumped by the EUM last summer, i was faced with many regrets. i truly felt awful what i had done to my ex HB. yes, he had some major issues, but rather than actually confronting him, i kept it all inside and then when i noticed i had strong feelings for the rebound guy, i simply announced i was leaving. and that was the end of it. i didn’t want to talk about it. i was done.

      i’ve also felt that what happened to me last year was major karma. i’m not sure if it is, but both my marriage and the relationship with the EUM were major lessons to me.

      i know now for a fact that i will NEVER be unfaithful again and neither will i tolerate it from my partner (the ex hb had a little fling, too).

      and now i know what it’s like to be strung along and dumped, i also know that i will NEVER do that to somebody else again.

      these were very hard lessons to learn, but i do feel that they are morphing me into a better person.

      i have been putting boundaries into place, i’m working on my self esteem and have been doing a lot of general inner work and maintenance.

      these experiences happen for a reason. they are usually necessary for us to learn and grown. and as unpleasant as they are, they serve a purpose. you already said you’ve learnt so much from it… now it’s time to forgive yourself.

      • Lois Lane says:

        Oh ladies. Thank you for sharing. My story is similar. Your comments really just made me realize that I haven’t totally forgiven myself. :(

  9. runnergirl says:

    Oh Natalie, give both your little ones big giant hugs, although I’m sure you have. It’s so clear that a 5 yro isn’t a bad person for having an accident. I’m glad you were there to reassure and comfort her. My heart hurt for her too when she took it to the nth degree. Those moments are precious moments. Your daughters are so fortunate to have you there for them. Gotta love that little Nia. Like Saria, my daughter does the deep introspection and gets 400 from 2 plus 2. She got that from me. I posted a while back that my daughter (23) made two very huge mistakes (not accidents) this summer and is paying very heavy consequences. She also used the phrase “couldn’t get anything right”. I am so grateful for you and everything I’ve learned here. I saw every BR post and reader comment flash before me too as I struggled for the right words. Thanks to you, I was able to talk to her about making mistakes, opportunities to learn, and the consequences. I also got to share with her some of my major mistakes. Why do these major precious moments always happen in the car? They think texting while driving is distracting. Try a having a major life lesson discussion with a young sobbing adult while driving.

    Although I struggled with blaming myself (thank you for helping me through that), your post about Saria’s accident makes it crystal clear, it wasn’t about you. Additionally, the innate differences between Nia and Saria are interesting. Since I only have one, it’s easy to lapse into the faulty thinking that the reason she made a mistake is because I was a bad parent…inverted ego ahem! I’m finally, finally getting it. I’d say something about being dense but I’ll refrain given the subject matter!

    This post really hit home on many levels. I would never, ever, dream of speaking to my daughter in the way my internal dialog goes some days. I think you finally got through. The nurturing of my daughter is what I have to do with myself. Nurturing my daughter seems to come automatically, organically, without a thought. (Having boundaries with her does, however, take conscious thought!) Nurturing myself is coming along but it still feels a bit mechanical.

    Give Saria and big hug and tickle that little Nia. And give yourself a big, squeezy hug. What a great mummy.

  10. ssmith says:

    Healthy mindset starts when we are young and we must remember we always have room for growth no matter what age. Will remind my 18 yr old as well. Life, never ending learning cycle!

    • stacey allam says:

      i remind my eightenn year old of that also my husband and i put what my son felt undo pressure on him because he has an autistic sister and we wanted to have one child that was all right he was also pushed to do more and to take on lifes difficiculties with a smile because he himself has a problem with his leg our what he percieves as pressure have both made things difficult and easier for him in different ways and in ways you would not expect this is a kid who now walks miles at a time despite the face there were times in his life when he could not not even walk down the block

  11. rsj says:

    I was having a conversation with a colleague about this on Friday last week, re how people very frequently judge themselves and others, based on the things they do (it was a conversation about his daughter).

    My ex was (is) shocking for it, e.g. thinks he’s a bad person if he does something hurtful to someone. He gets so caught up beating himself up (and in the process making you responsible for his feelings/distress), that he can’t begin to address anything else. Thus nothing ever changed. Another wonderfully manipulative tactic.

    I do wonder why it’s so prevalent that people define themselves and others by their actions. You see it a lot – someone will say someone else is a good person because they (donate to charity, help the homeless, etc etc). Those acts don’t make someone a good person, especially when you consider that people do good deeds in order to assuage guilt. People can do “good” things and still be a shithead in other ways, or to other people.

    I generally consider it a red flag. If someone needs to do “good” things in order to feel good about themselves, generally there’s issues behind that when you peel off a layer or two. Likewise if someone defines others based on the “good” things they do.

    It’s very controlling and manipulative.

    • Wiser says:

      That’s very insightful of you to recognize that your ex’s constant beating himself up is actually a manipulation and avoidance technique. My ex-husband was exactly the same way – constantly hating himself for how terrible he was, which kept him from ever addressing anything. Nothing ever changed for him either. After many years I came to see this for what it really was – a form of laziness. Seven years after our divorce he is still exactly the same.

      Yes, doing “good” in order to feel good about oneself, or worse, to avoid having a bad feeling (being guilty if I don’t do it) is the worst sort of motivation there is.

  12. Emma says:

    I just love this post!

    Yay for little girls teaching us how to live!
    I have two daughters too, they are both very different and when they experience hurdles, I experience the hurdle too.

    More and more as they get older, I am having to figure out how to parent in a healthy and loving way, a way that is often very different from what I experienced as a child.

    My youngest is a real go-getter most of the time. She’s not so fussed with being a ‘good’ girl but she does like to do well at things. This summer, I couldn’t understand why she was experiencing some last-minute nerves about joining in weekend cricket like her older sister. I was worried we would get to the sports field and she would refuse to join in. (It can happen!) So on the way there, I stopped, got down to her level and actually asked her how she was feeling.

    She said, she was scared to play cricket, because she didn’t know how to play cricket.

    It made perfect sense. From her point of view, it looked like all the other kids could already play.

    With a massive inner ‘Ahhhh!’ I was able to explain that none of the kids knew how to play cricket, and the weekend cricket for her age was all about teaching and showing kids how to play, catch, and throw. I closed with: ‘None of us know how to play sport before we begin. That’s why we come to practice.’

    That made all the difference to her. She was happy to participate after our talk – and I was just so relieved that some part of me had the wisdom to stop and look my darling in the eyes and ask her how she was feeling.

    Great blog – thank you.

  13. Thank you says:

    I really just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to you Natalie. You couldn’t possibly know how much you have helped me. Unfortunately the pain is still ever present, but you have stopped me from making it a million times worse. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  14. noquay says:

    This post came at a much needed time. Was blaming myself for being ugly/ undesirable/ a failure etc. etc. because of todays lunchtime encounter with the AC (on a day when he is rarely on campus) and that I have had to fend off two married dudes and two deadbeats (when I was not even looking to meet anyone), that I am not getting enough done fast enough on my house. Got home, totally discouraged and read the post, gave myself a much needed dopeslap and thought Whoa! Looked at my teary but beautiful dark lil face in the mirror and told myself its ok. Yep, I made a horrid mistake responding to the AC s need for narc supply (in his case, I feel it is important to state what he is as it explains why he had such a disproportionate hold over me and also explains why he acts in what would otherwise be seemingly irrational ways), but my mistake was an honest one, as I didnt know what he was and what he is doing. I should not give up lunch with colleagues on the off chance that he will show up as this is my only opportunity to socialize with anyone during the week. It is not my fault that I seem to attract the local losers either, the majority of men here ARE deadbeats who can recognize a potential meal ticket from a mile away and desperate womyn here often take up with married. My mistake woulda been giving any of them scarce oxygen. Yep, I do not have nearly enough work done on the casa not because I am a worthless slacker but because anyone who teaches full time, including nights, runs a small farm, is simultaneously learning and doing home remodels and repairs IS gonna be perpetually behind. Btw way to parent Nat, I had one of those accidents when I was younger than your daughter and not only was I shamed before my class, I was sent home, then beaten. Good to hear that someone is doing parenting right.

    • Magnolia says:

      Little noquay! and little selkie! my heart goes out to you for stories of being punished as children in an effort to instill the basics and most intimate forms of self-control.

      My health issues mean I have all kinds of accidents these days and I cannot imagine how a beating, after the gamut of emotions that come with self-wetting, could ever be seen as an effective response!

      I suppose it’s a lot easier to forgive myself for an ‘accident’ than a mistake. A mistake calls my judgement into question, and I’m still learning to trust my judgment. But the full time teaching plus plus has been putting the kabosh on my perfectionism. It sounds like you’re loosening the perfectionist grip a bit yourself, there, noquay.

  15. No One says:

    I really needed to read this. I freak out over the littlest things and try to correct things, which only makes it worse. I’ve always been the girl who takes 2+2 and thinks it’s 400. Yep.

    January was such a horrible month. I got a speeding ticket and then I get pulled over the next day! I broke my phone, and a coworker called me an idiot. Being the sensitive person I am, by Friday I was reduced to liquid.

    I also used to wet myself in kindergarten for the same reason. I’ll be 26 in April and I’m admitting this! OMG! But seriously… I didn’t want to annoy my teacher.

    Same with my relationships with friends and how my life is shaping up so far… I always think the mistake makes me less of a person. I don’t know if I could change THAT… but at least I can change the way I handle it.

  16. Peanut says:

    Natalie, your children are so lucky to have you as their mother.

    God, I could learn a thing or two from your youngest. I like you, put ‘two and two together’ to make ‘four hundred.’

    Growing up I constantly heard,”Be a good girl, ” etc.

    It sickens me when I hear parents say this. Way to set up your kids to be people pleasers.

    It’s such a manipulative, ambiguous thing to say to a child. What on earth does it mean?

    It means do what adults around you expect you to because we are too lazy to spell out assertive expectations and or deal with your authenticity.

    Ugh, let’s burn that phrase and replace it with, “Be you.”

  17. Emily says:

    Love this. Can’t help but think about how our kids gets these ideas about being “good enough.” Since it’s actually a complex concept. It’s humbling.

  18. paolo says:

    This post is important to remember…I was always hit when i made mistakes as a kid and i grew up feeling stupid, scared or just plain wrong as a person on a deep level..Even now i have to sometimes remind myself it’s ok to make mistakes..No one is going to hit me no more and im 40, so what your teaching your kids is good Nat.

    • stacey allam says:

      i was hit too when i made mistakes as a kid i was raised by a paranoid scziophrenic so i was hit not for any wrongs but for anything my mother percieved as being wrong
      it was defenitely a dysfunctional way to grow up but i never really hated her if anyone suggested that i get married without her around i always held off being raised by her and overcoming it definitely contributed to the person i am today and for that i am grateful

  19. Lavanda says:

    You are a great mum Natalie! What parents should do is understand who their children are, nurture them with love and fortify them to make them ready for the world. Mine did not make a good job, I know that they love me but not in the way that I needed to. I do not think they were ready to be parents. It is not just a question of age, it about self-awareness. During my childhood I have been abused and never said anything to my parents because I did not wanted to cause extra problems, I have always been very sensitive. When I finally grow up I told my mum. Well, she said if it had happened it was my fault, I was too affectionate. I think she said this because was not able to cope with the situation and was not ready to face it. So I do understand her but I do not have deep feelings, although I know my duty as a daughter.

    I grow up with a sense of emptiness. When I recently met my Mister Unavailable who fast forwarded me, paradoxically, I felt that my needs were finally met. Well, the rest is pretty much similar to all the other stories.

    Thanks to all of you for sharing your experience it is helping me to heal and grow stronger.

  20. The Dance says:

    That’s a beautiful story, and brought a tear to my eye too… I work with children and my absolute passion is to encourage their self esteem, confidence and belief in themselves, and especially with my own son… sadly this passion probably comes from the fact that it was my very own mother that often made me feel worthless, she criticised me constantly and called me stupid etc etc, there was very little encouragement in anything I attempted in life… it makes me so sad for the little and younger me, and I can’t help thinking ‘what happens when it’s your own MUM that does this to you?’, can you ever recover from that? Just want to say though Natalie, I have been reading and your devouring your words over the last 18 months or so, and I cannot tell you how much this has helped me since meeting a couple of EUM’s and Assclowns since my separation a couple of years ago. It has led me to read other books and go on a journey of self discovery and understanding about some of the issues in my life. I can’t wait for your blogs to pop up in my email or twitter each day, really keeps me on track! Thank you so, so much for your wise words :-) x

  21. Peanut says:

    It’s interesting that I derailed to a soap box stance in my last post. What I’m getting away from is this: I was severely criticized, ostracized, berated, physically abused and even tortuted by my family if I made a mistake. I’m like a shaking Chihuahua in the adult world. I’ve been in a lot of therapy. This has by far been the toughest for me to overcome. It’s near killed my goals in life.

    • paolo says:

      I can relate to that peanut..I used to think things to exhaustions and talk myself out of it for fear of mistakes..I thankfully overcame the fear but wasted alot of years ruminating over imaginary negative bullshit before hand.

      • Poppy says:

        I can too and I know it’s hard. I can remember looking at my reflection in a window as a child, I was sobbing uncontrollably telling myself I was a pig, fat, ugly, had no friends, nobody loved me. I was seven for goodness sake. I have done this continually throughout my adult life! This wasn’t from playground talk these beliefs came from my family.

        I said it before in an earlier reply, this post is an inspiration.

        • jewells says:

          Wow Poppy, I have had the exact same dialogue to myself all my life. It too came from my family. I don’t remember any playground taunts that rivalled what my family did to me. It’s so sad for our inner child to have taken it on, but what else would they know? Every day negative reinforcement where love was meant to be. It’s hard to even look at my ‘family’ for me, all I see is that cruelty they visited upon me as a child. I look at a child and wonder how someone can do that and look at themselves in the mirror every day. I don’t get it.

  22. espresso says:

    Wow rsj you really nailed this for me. My ex always redirected any emotional issue I brought up with him by saying that he was a “bad person” and that he was a failure. That sort of ended the conversation because it ended up being all about HIM! So it usually turned out ME reassuring HIM when it was me that wanted the support, understanding or a focus on an emotional issue that I was bringing up. This was always what happened!

    It really was manipulative. ANd it infuriated and frustrated me and led to a lot of distrust.
    And I played my part by always saying and thinking that it was just too hard for him to be an emotionally engaged, alert and conscious person. I think people can say they are learning from their mistakes but that can just be a lot of self deception. Thanks for bringing this up…

  23. Natasha says:

    Nat, your little ones are too cute! My niece and nephew are now 10 and 8 respectively and I miss the 5 and 3 era so much sometimes :) My nephew is the Nia of our family – we always say he is 8 going on 42 and, yes, sometimes (often) we have to give him the side-eye too haha! This is one of the many things I love about children – they really take us “back to basics”. I’m 31 years old and often have to remind myself that it’s okay to mistakes. My parents told me this many times as a little girl, but a reminder never hurts. Hell, they’ve even forgiven me for when they announced that I was getting a brother and I deadpanned, “I thought you were going to say that we’re getting a puppy. That’s what I really wanted. Why can’t we have a puppy? WHY?” As you can guess, I got my fair share of side-eyes as a little one too!

  24. Lacy says:

    Love the post Nat it really does start at that age with our children.I don’t remember anyone telling me that it was okay to make mistakes,and no one telling me that I was special or loved.I don’t fault my parents,learning now my Mom took care of all of her brothers and sis while her my mom worked and my dad out of his 12 brothers and sisters him and his brother,their Mom my (grandmother)gave them to her mom to raise them when they were just toddlers.It is now that they see a glimpse of how it effected their children they don’t really own up to it but they are showing us more love and support so thats a plus. Some people are able to rise above those situation,I used to beat myself up for mistakes,and I chose people to be in my life who did not value me as a person and in a sick way it was okay with me I didn’t know I deserve better.I now in my adult life the mistakes I made and see it was okay everyone makes mistakes and building ways to appreciate and value me as a person.Not only do I have a responsibility to me but to my kids as well.I ususally try to instill that into them that they are special but reading your post I know I can do much more.

  25. Lacy says:

    Also Nat I read Fallback girl over the weekend its really an eye opener,I’m working on Mr.unavailable now.Congrats on your accomplishments God bless you and your family!!

  26. Lostinspace says:

    First time I read this post it resonated with me. Today it does so even more. I confronted the b/f about the fact i hadn’t met any of his friends/family and felt like he wasn’t committed to me. He blamed work and managed to avoid the main issue completely. Now he’s cut me off and isn’t talking at all. So even though I know I did the right thing and his issues are not my fault, I still feel like I failed…again.

    • Allison says:


      Thankfully, you did it now! Nothing is worse than being the ‘little secret’ in someone’s life- I, too, have been there. Should have bailed immediately after I realized I would always be on the periphery of his life.

      Time to find someone who will let you in, and be proud to do so, as these guys are a complete waste of time!

      • Lostinspace says:

        So true. I sat and read Fallback Girl last night and it made me feel a lot better about things. I can see I ignored a lot of the warning signs because I was so desperate for this one to work out. Always a bad idea. But at least I didn’t let too much time pass before I said “I’m not putting up with this shite any longer”. Just got to get through this crappy period now and find the light at the end of the tunnel. Never seems to get any less painful, does it?

  27. PurpleLily says:


    Please give those precious girls a big cuddle from us! How beautiful and cherished childhood is!

    This post really got me teary, it is such a strong post and touches all of us. That moment where you describe asking her if she wants to talk and she burst into tears.. Me. Adult me. So many many times. Just sitting there thinking ‘I will burst into tears if someone shows me the tiniest amount of concern’.

    A healthy happy childhood is beyond the worth of the world. I feel sad so many times for my childhood got lost in all the beating and screaming that happened at home. Even when I came home after a accident with bruises all over – a bike pushed me across the street (not my fault plus I was 5), mom didn’t want to tell dad because ‘Lily, you should have been careful and if I tell your dad, he will get angry at you’. Every time, same thing.

    If nothing, this will help me be a good parent someday . For that, I am grateful for the tough, painful lessons.

  28. Peanut says:


    Now I have something in my eye after reading your comment! That last line was so inspirational. It’s really hard not to give up and go back to the pain I know so well. It’s really scary taking a chance on life and betting on faith that the future can be better.

  29. Peanut says:


    Good, God, the way in which your father reacted to what is very NORMAL for a toddler, is gut wrenchingly cruel. I am so sorry you went through that.

  30. Peanut says:


    How did you overcome the fear?

    • paolo says:

      Peanut. If anything in life frightens me now, i accept the feeling and let it course through me. That way it doesn’t own me and effect my mind. It becomes a physical thing and not something im compelled to react to. It’s not something i experience often, but at those times i do, that’s how i deal with it.

  31. Peanut says:


    You are not cursed! This isn’t the Scarlet Letter. Remove that red letter ‘A’ from your chest. Work on loving you and discover what drove you to marry an unavailable alcoholic.

    You have punished you enough; you’ve got to start forgiving yourself!

  32. frieda says:

    I was never told I was of any value. My mother is German, my father was a controller. I think my mother did the best she knew how, and maybe she was trying to keep me from being arrogant, or trying to make me stronger. (An article about how our mothers learned to be mothers may be interesting to see.)

    I still struggle with my self-esteem, but I am getting better at it! I have done a lot to be proud of, and when I think of mistakes, I try to see what I have learned from them.

  33. Peanut says:


    I figured as much. That’s the very thing I try to vehemently avoid. Feeling all that fear. It’s as if it’ll destroy me if I feel it, be the death of me. It’s maddening though: The very thing that will save me and stop my barely living, is feeling it all.

    When I get scared, as I often am, I reach for the closest thing that will numb me: sugar. I overcame drug addiction from my teenage days. (I got started young). And replaced it with food and sugar. I swear the food addiction is harder to kick than any drug I’ve been strung out on.

    This just confirms all I have to do that I’m not: Feel those damn feelings.

    • BSer says:

      Peanut – maybe you are feeling your feelings – everyone reacts differently, you can’t compare your reaction to someone elses.
      You are YOU!

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Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.