I have been thinking a lot about the phrase “You should know better.”
I am trying to remember why it triggered something in me, something to take pause and reflect how we say this phrase in reaction, with potentially the shame and self-condemning aftereffect. We tell our children this in times of a mishap or unachieved expectation, we tell our partners this in a time of miscommunication or frustration, we tell ourselves this in a time of insecurity or failed result.
But how do you know the result of something, if in some cases, you have never done it before? You should know better can be a damning phrase for trying. And hell, we can’t squash trying. Trying is the foundation for uncomfortable, new, change, also know as GROWTH.
Let’s put some boundaries on this. You should know better then to park in front of a fire hydrant without potential consequences. You should know better then not to brush your teeth everyday and expect them all in tact in 20 years. So please assume the obvious as, well, obvious.
Some years ago, my Thing 2 (youngest daughter) had an accident in the kitchen, where the glass dome of my beloved cake stand came crashing to the ground. It was beloved because I had an image of my counter space all through my months of renovations; this image included perpetual treats, on a cake stand, under a glass dome. I am a simple gal who loves to spread love through sugar, in moderation of course!
I came into this mess and immediately helped her clean it up. She was rather upset and apologized, and I said not to worry. But then Thing 1 told me how it happened – yeah, tattletaling at its best. My creative girl was imagining a race in her head and needed to put up a finish line to cross, and for this she used tape…you can figure out the rest. I stopped and looked at her and immediately said “Really? You should know better.” I was mad at that point. This was an avoidable incident now, not an accident.
I reflect on that moment now and think no, she didn’t think it all through, but did she really know the strength of the tape was superior than the vision in her head? Of course, I was considering my daughters cognitive skills and the laws of physics when I got upset, but right then and there, I damned her imagination. I damned her creativity. I damned her playing out a story, and man, who doesn’t love a good story? In fact, did I inadvertently tell her to stop daydreaming and imagining?
I am realizing more and more how vulnerability is the centre of all things most worthy. Thank you Brene Brown! I have my own battles with this vulnerability demon, yes, I see it as a demon, but I know that the most vulnerable are those who try. And that knowing “better” may deter that very foundation of personal growth and happiness.
I know better then to compete with….
I know better then to tell him how I feel…
I know better then to try and play that sport….
I know better then to say no to her….
Have you ever seen a young child first learn how to downhill ski? Even after lessons and the endless preaching of “pizza and fries” (the direction of skis, not your lunch order), yep some go straight down the hill as fast as they can go. Why? Because, they see speed as fun, and heck, their centre of gravity is so low, a fall is not nearly as daunting. The essence of childhood is exploring and adventure because so much is new. Yet as adults we judge them for not knowing a potential result before they even try. Sometimes we are so focused on all the negative things that could happen, we forget about the thrill of the good. The thrill of wind in your face, of new heights and new speeds.
That child tried because they did not know better, not having done it before. And they survived with a new experience, good or bad, under their helmet.
I know I will use this phrase differently now. Rethinking the situation and context as not to shame a thought, action or gesture. Sometimes thinking we know better is a crutch to stand behind, because the fact is you don’t really know 100% unless, you got it…try.