The “Mistakes” of Youth

Hours ago, my daughter Fiona cut off eight inches of her hair. More than this, she took off her entire right side. Just like that! Wow! We have never worried about her with scissors… she’s always walked with them correctly and cut only what was supposed to be cut. Actually, at a young age we noticed her unique ability and dexterity with scissors as she repeatedly cut spirals out of construction paper. Now she has a slightly extended bowl cut.

I am struck by the impulsivity she displayed and mellowed by the lack of real repercussions. She was gone literally three minutes and BAM!, golden locks on the ground. No comment from her until a curl floated down and we asked, “What happened?” This was followed by tears and more tears. Not only is she impulsive but she is clearly aware. Ouch. The real repercussions of this are minimal. We snapped a photo, we tried not to laugh about it (too much), and mourned the loss of her beautiful hair.

Fiona is just under four years old though and so I only jokingly refer to this instance as a ‘mistake of youth.’ We now have a good story, a funny Facebook status to post, and photos to look back on years from now. In a few months her hair will be back. She is still beautiful and funny and intelligent and curious. No harm done.

As an educator, the real extreme mistakes of youth can be haunting. In the last year I’ve received bad news about former students far too often. An artist lost in a bad car accident. A slip from a roof for one of my soccer players. A summer student lost to drugs. These are the real mistakes of youth – the lives that cannot be repaired, have no story to retell, and leave the pit in my stomach. Impulsivity in some cases, wrong time and place in others.

I am glad to have known these young men and women who’ve passed. They were quirky and impulsive and hilarious and real. They were all good individuals as well.

I bet Fiona is going to wake up tomorrow morning and not want to go to school. That is okay. (She’ll still go). She is allowed many of these faux mistakes as she moves forward. These small mistakes, and even some of the medium ones, are good for her, and my, growth.

Best, John