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A Big MistakeThis picture book is out of print but I love it so much that I wanted to write it up anyway. It’s not impossible (or super expensive) to get and the message is such a good one that I keep it on my bookshelf even though my children have long gone on to chapter books.

A Big Mistake written by Lenore Rinder and illustrated by Susan Horn takes a first person point of view so that you, the reader, are looking at the pictures as if you are creating them. The artist is creating a picture when — whoops! — she makes a mistake. A big mistake. The picture is ruined! But no, wait, she incorporates the mistake into her art. The mistake becomes art.

This book is terrific for kids who want to do every thing just right but it’s also nice to share with adults who suffer from the same constraint. The message is that screw ups are inevitable but it’s o.k. because it’s not the mistakes that make us. No, it’s how we manage those inevitable blunders.

Unfortunately we will all drip paint on our paper or fall off our bikes or fall in love with people who don’t love us back. We will also get fired, flunk tests and wear white after labor day. Mistakes are part of learning to live and life is all about learning.

I think about some of my clients who carry tremendous shame for bad decisions and I think about the tough love school of therapy that has Dr. Phil wannabes barking, “How’s that working for ya?” My clients often know that there’s paint all over their life canvases but they don’t know how to fix it. They don’t know how to respond to those bad decisions because they see themselves as people who are locked into perpetual mistakes.

They’re not. None of us are. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn something and some of us need to make more mistakes because we have bigger lessons to learn.

If you don’t want to buy this excellent book used online, see if your local library has a copy and share it with a perfectionist you love.

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