Why I Try Never To Say “Well That Was Dumb”

I had just finished a twelve hour overnight shift in the NICU where I worked as a nurse. I was riding the bus home in the early Saturday morning hours, bone tired. It was sunny, I think, and I was feeling regretful of my need to sleep before the next night’s shift, wishing I could be out in the land of the living, enjoying the beautiful weekend with my boyfriend instead of shut up in a dark room with a white noise machine.

I laid my phone down on the bus seat next to mine.  Just for a moment, I thought.

But when I got home a few minutes later, I realized my phone was gone.


That evening, at a pre-work dinner with my then boyfriend and now dear friend, I confided in him about my lost phone. Although I had a full time job in the NICU, I was also a graduate student, and we were living far above my means. He happily helped support me, no strings attached. But I thought surely he would be frustrated with me, given that I would have to buy a new phone out of my limited funds, meaning I would be less able to pay for something else.

“Oh sweetheart,” was all he said, in sympathetic tones.

I looked at him wide-eyed. “You mean you’re not mad at me? You aren’t going to yell at me that I should have been more careful?” ‘

After all, this was the model I grew up with. More recently, my mom’s water bottle leaked in her purse and ruined her cell phone. My dad berated her for an hour… and she was fully middle aged, successfully running her own law firm while he was… at home, working on his photography, entirely dependent on her income. Yet he castigated her, going on and on, while she meekly absorbed it.

It was his turn to look at me wide-eyed. “Yell at you? Why would I be mad at you? That’s about the meanest thing I can think of. You are already so mad at yourself.”

And after a pause, he said kindly, “You should go buy yourself a new phone tomorrow. Get a nice one.”

This simple conversation changed my thinking forever. I vowed to be that person for my own child someday. The one who was sympathetic when the child screwed up, who let the child figure out mistakes on her own — after all, I didn’t need Scott to tell me not to set my phone down on the bus seat, I could easily figure that out all by myself — with loving support.

So that is why I didn’t tell my child, “well, that was stupid,” when my child [stupidly] put her leg through the back of the chair, hopped up and down, and fell down. Even though I really wanted to.



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