(This is an update of my previous post on photoshopping our sporting role models and appears in the June issue of You!)

One of my friends strongly believes (especially after a few Shiraz’s from atop her soap box) that no woman gets pregnant “by accident”. She is certain that it’s mostly a case of “accidentally on purpose” or subconsciously intentional.

I am always one of the first to dispute this notion. Exhibit A: my son. Not planned. I was absolutely blindsided to witness two little pink lines appear in microseconds after I weed on the white stick (not the 1-2 minutes as described on the box).

Another of our friends is usually second to dispute the No Mistakes argument. She is a doctor and knows scientifically from clinical people in lab coats that no contraception is 100 percent guaranteed. So you can be happily going about your (ahem) business with absolutely no intention or desire to procreate and BOOM! life is created.

Maybe it’s from years of applying PR-spin to media releases, but I have always avoided the M word when referring to my less than scheduled first pregnancy. However, if forced to use the M word, I would describe my first born as the best mistake I ever made.

That’s the nature of mistakes – you make them, you learn from them, live with the consequences and only you can decide whether or not you will make them again.

There are priorities. There are actions. There are consequences. It’s one of the fundamental life lessons parents teach their children: figure out what is important in your life, understand the repercussions of your actions and cop it sweet.

When it comes to behaviour, we quickly learn that punishment and derision are by-products of offensive, illegal or conduct and likewise, good behaviour begets rewards and praise.

And nowhere is that more apparent than in this, the age of jury by Twitter – where the voices of the people are merely a search engine away. You don’t have to do much to attract the vilification of the millions; lie about getting Botox, advertise your sickie on Facebook or appear on morning television a little tipsy and the world’s your executioner.

Personally, I tend to like people whose little flaws are easier to see. Remember that time the Kevinator swore on TV? Shit, he endeared himself to me even more then!

I just wish the world could be a little more even-handed and compassionate in our tendency to ruthlessly criticise when public figures, in particular, stuff up.

With us human beings, there are often extenuating circumstances. We’re not mathematical equations, you see. Perfection is a myth.

We shouldn’t be so quick to write someone off when an indiscretion is committed that only self-harms someone that has previously gone to extraordinary lengths to prove themselves as a focused, kind and generous individual who has achieved levels of achievement only possible by someone dedicated to healthy living and a clear heart.

When Michael Phelps last year made the mistake of hitting the bong rather than the billabong, offending millions and losing his Kellogg’s sponsorship deal, comedian Arj Barker was prompted to ask how many gold medals you have to win in order to be allowed to take a hit of marijuana.

Jokes aside (including some great quips about the irony of a cereal company punishing someone for getting stoned), I think he’s got a point. Couldn’t we all just get over it by considering that when the incident occurred it was not during a swimming competition, the guy had spent many years dedicating his life, his youth, fitness, eating regime and personal privacy to swimming for his country (and himself presumably)?

Given all the circumstances, couldn’t we just let that one go?

Aren’t we in danger of setting unrealistic, untrue, unattainable standards by not cutting our role models any slack? It’s like we’re photoshopping out all faults to ensure we are left with a humanoid ideal of how we think a role model should look and act.

Doesn’t this set up future generations for failure? To succeed you must never fail. And if you do, hide it at all costs.

I’ve always tried to be honest with my son when I have made a boo-boo that leaves an impression on him. Either that makes me a fabulously honest parent or very used to making mistakes.

It’s important to me to tell my children that it’s not the end of the world when they spill OJ on mum’s Turkish rug (albeit, through gritted teeth and a high pitched voice). At five years old, my son also already knows that it’s so much easier to take the blame and apologise for something because not only do you acknowledge your error and hopefully learn not to go there again, but it ends and all goes away faster that way.

I just hope he takes my word for it that it’s not very nice to swear. Despite owning up to wrongfully using bad language (mostly in the car), it’s one mistake I keep making! I want to blame the bad influence of that prime mister of ours but I also want to teach my kids that it’s pretty unclassy to try to deflect the blame of our mistakes by throwing doubt on the character of other parties (NRL players, anyone?).

Clearly, it’s much easier to go to town on someone else’s wrong doing than our own, but maybe the lesson is to apply as much compassion and understanding to others as we would hope they would us. Whether it’s an unplanned pregnancy, a performance dis-enhacing drug or blatant disrespect for other people, rather than tar all mistakes with the same brush, it comes down to weighing up the individual circumstances and judging (or not) accordingly.

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