The other night, after finishing up dinner and homework, Grace asked me if she could practice some hairstyles on me before bedtime. She’s really been getting into doing her hair lately, and had even picked out a couple of “how to” hairstyle books at the library earlier in the week. I was ready and willing to be her test subject.
Many of the books that Grace had compiled had some pretty complicated hairstyles, some of which even myself, after years of french-braiding and fishtail-creating, would have struggled with. Grace managed through some of these with such patience, but was clearly having a hard time executing the styles. Never one to give up, she just kept going, and managed to engineer three separate styles, each looking somewhat like the photos in her books.
Finally, Grace decided to attempt a hairstyle with six separate braids, which would then be braided together to create a “Rapunzel” style large rope-like braid in the back. This would be interesting, I thought to myself. Grace gathered hair several different times, and was clearly having some successes and some challenges, but kept working, pulling my hair in different directions, feverishing pinning hair and rubber-banding. I asked her how it was going, and she responded, “I’m doing my best. I will keep you posted.”
After another five minutes or so of working feverishly, Grace had finished, and handed me a mirror to see the final result of her work, which I assessed to look very little like the example she had showed to me earlier. “It’s not at all what I was going for, but I just kept working, and I really like how it turned out,” she said. “A beautiful oops.”
I paused in that moment, the phrase she used taking me by surprise in its beauty. Her context couldn’t have been any more perfect – this hairstyle was a “beautiful oops,” not the style she had intended to execute, but a creative interpretation of her intent. In that moment, I commented that I loved her phrasing, and she responded that she had once read a book called “The Beautiful Oops” in First Grade, and that was where her reference had come from.
I had never heard of this book before, but looked it up later that night and, sure enough, came across the work by Barney Saltzberg. According to its reviews, this book beautifully describes how every mistake we make is an opportunity “to make something beautiful.” “A Beautiful Oops.” In that moment, it would have been impossible for me to not apply this phrase to the role in which I believe I make the most mistakes – parenting. We all have successes and good days, but we all make mistakes, and, If you are anything like me, we make them every.single.day. Clearly, I need to apply Grace’s phrase to my daily life, really just putting the right lens on what I deem to be the faults and challenges of the day. It’s clear that, in changing the lens, it may become clear that these so-called “mistakes” are actually actions that can make our lives, our children, and our future more beautiful.