When Jakey was three he went through an “ashamed phase.” If you even gently or innocently questioned his abilities, strength, size, or corrected his behavior, he would melt into a puddle of tears and cave baby grunts and would run away and hide his face.
Once I balked when he offered to pull up this iron horse hitching post that was set in concrete in the middle of our lawn. Fearing that my children would split their heads open on the forehead-high iron dagger protruding from the side, I spent hours twisting and turning the pole, trying to haul it out of the fudgy soil. He was so little and so confident. He offered to pull it out for me and my smile of disbelief sent Jakey into meltdown mode. I felt horrible.
Nate has been going through a similar phase, though not quite as extreme. He’s slightly more accepting of his current stature and station in life.
So when the Book Elf suggested a story about perfectionism, I readily embraced his recommendation of The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubenstein.
In a nutshell: Beatrice Bottomwell is an elementary school-aged girl who is famous for never making mistakes. She is able to make PB&J with the exact same amount of PB versus J. She is so perfect that people don’t know her name… she’s just known as “the Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes.” She even has paparazzi that wait for her in the morning outside her house.
Her little brother Carl makes all kinds of mistakes like drawing with green beans and eating cereal with his feet (which I would argue is less of a mistake and more a lack of good judgment). Carl is clearly happy, but also unlikely to be showing-up in Us Weekly.
Beatrice almost ruins her mistake-free record during cooking class when she slips and drops four eggs. But, she miraculously catches them all, landing on her back with all the eggs safely caught— including one in her mouth. After this close call, Beatrice is spooked. Now she’s walking on egg shells (figuratively of course). She avoids ice-skating and other risky activities so as to maintain her reputation of perfection.
Well one day it’s time for her to perform her world-famous juggling act in the school talent show. Spoiler alert: She grabs the pepper shaker instead of the salt shaker and when she combines this mistake with her hamster, Humbert, and a water balloon… Everything goes terribly wrong.
In front of the world, Humbert breathes in the pepper, sneezes, claws the water balloon and explodes it on top of Beatrice, ruining her perfect hair.
And what does Beatrice do after this horribly embarrassing public screw-up? Does she run and hide her face and grunt unintelligible sounds in a puddle of anguished tears?
Staying true to her nature, her reaction is perfect: she laughs. She laughs and laughs and the audience laughs and hallelujah, the pressure to be perfect evaporates. She learns to ice skate and take risks and has fun instead of being such a goody-goody. At the end of the day, she’s no longer famous, but she doesn’t care. Now she can be Beatrice the girl instead of Beatrice the robot.
Families can talk about: Why does Beatrice not want to make mistakes? What does making mistakes teach you? What is the worst thing that could happen if you mess-up? What is the worst thing that could happen if you worry too much about messing-up? What mistakes have you made? What do you do when you make a mistake? Would you rather your name was “the Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes” or Beatrice Bottomwell?
I’d go with option 1 myself.
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubenstein