Even more important, letting go of too-high expectations gives parents a chance to teach children one of life's most important lessons: that to err is human. "That's a crucial developmental step," says Dr. Stein. "Children need to learn that people can be both good and bad -- but that, ultimately, they are basically good. The irony is that we need to be able to tolerate that we are not perfect in order to be good parents."
This was what Willa learned when I missed her assembly: Mommy is not perfect. But after her tears dried, she found it in her heart to forgive me, even if she never said the words. After the assembly I waited around for a few minutes, watching as she returned to the playground and a small crowd of children began to gather around her.
"Why are you crying?" her friends asked. As she told them, she opened her bag of Goldfish crackers and started passing them out to the other children.
"Does she do this every day?" I asked them. Yes, they said, she always shares her snack. I kissed Willa good-bye and walked away, turning occasionally to watch my little good citizen share with her friends, just as I'd always taught her to do, convinced she'd never heard me. As I watched, I'll confess, I felt ridiculously proud. After all, I'm only human.