Moms and Mistakes

My mom and I developed a little routine when she made grilled cheese for me: I sat at the table, she put down a plate with a piping hot grilled cheese sandwich, and then she'd quickly exit the room as if she had something to do.

I looked at the bread facing up at me. It was grilled to perfection--slightly brown, still glistening with a touch of butter. Then I flipped the sandwich over. The other side was charred black.

"Mom!" I yelled. "You burned it again!"

I could hear my mom laughing in the other room.

This became our grilled cheese dance--she would burn one side of my sandwich and serve it to me crispy-side-down, I would figure out her terrible secret and yell about it, and we both laughed.

It's become one of my favorite stories about my mom, and I tell it to anyone and everyone who will listen (as recently as this past weekend...when I was eating grilled cheese).

It's funny how our mistakes work.

We convince ourselves we're screwing things up. We think we're falling well below the standard of necessary perfection to be a mom/dad/teacher/boss/person/whatever. Maybe we get down on ourselves for not being able to do even a simple thing right, like preventing one side of a grilled cheese sandwich from being torched into a piece of chalkboard. 

But sometimes, that mistake becomes a favorite story your son remembers every time he has grilled cheese.

Or it's like the way my mom would always accidentally bleach my clothes in high school. Every few weeks, another shirt or pair of pants would come to a splotchy demise, and I would be furious. I finally had a job to make money to buy clothes I wanted, and my mom was ruining them. In hindsight, a good chunk of those clothes were from Abercrombie & Fitch, so maybe my mom was being more loving than I thought.

Eventually, I took matters into my own hands and in an effort to protect my clothes from my mom, I began to do my own laundry. What started as a mistake for her turned into a pretty good deal all around--it was less work for her in the short term, and by the time I left high school, I had learned how to take care of myself. There would be no nineteen-year-old dragging laundry back home from college once a month because he still didn't know how to do it.

All of this is maybe a backwards way of saying to moms, "You're doing a good job."

In the same way you can't control the way someone responds to even the best, most loving things you do, you can't predict what may come out of your "mistakes." My mom didn't just mess up my sandwiches and my laundry--she made many other mistakes, and yet I'm here. And I'm fine. Somehow, in this crazy life, due to the weird and wacky physics of love and the inside-out mathematics of grace, our mistakes don't add up the way we think they will.

Even when you're less than perfect (in other words, even when you're human like the rest of us), you could be shaping us for the better.

Not all of your mistakes will turn out to be regrets.

Some of them might become a lesson. Some of them might become a smile every time a grilled cheese sandwich is made.