"It was just a mistake!"
This is what my daughter now immediately responds with when she does something to get in trouble, such as turn her Playdough bucket upside down, thus covering the livingroom floor in little pieces of dried up playdough and gazillions of little plastic molds and cookie cutters or squirting her juice box creating a six inch stream of juice, or as she just did literally five seconds ago, eating half a bottle of fluoride free toddler toothpaste.
Apparently she has figured out that, in this touchy feely age of parenting in which we are raising our spawn, "everyone makes mistakes" and they are always forgiven. So now wreaking havoc on the household is not, in fact, the acts of a depraved, heathen-esque toddler, but just the mis-steps of a misguided, misunderstood little girl. But because she is sweet, says she is sorry and calls her acts of depravity "mistakes," it's OK and Mommy is going to say "Oh honey, don't worry, everyone makes mistakes."
Unfortunately, this Mommy responds with putting her in time out with a puzzled look on her face as she screams "But Mommy, it was just a mistake!!!"
So how do you explain to a 3-year-old that there is a difference between doing something undesirable without the intent to create chaos and doing something naughty, all the while knowing quite well that it's naughty but then backpedaling by using the "mistake" excuse? A mistake is something you shouldn't have done, correct? In her mind, it's all the same. On one hand, my daughter is very, very smart, but on the other hand, she is still 3. And 3-year-olds subscribe to their own brand of logic that is not easily penetrated by adult rationalization.
So I guess until the day that I can sit her down and explain the difference between intentional actions and unintentional actions, I suppose she is just going to have to learn from these "mistakes." Perhaps she will see a trend in the fact that she gets in trouble for hitting her brother in the face and she doesn't get in trouble when she accidentally spills her cup of juice. And maybe one of these days she will remember how much trouble she got into for pouring Mommy's coffee on her laptop and realize that that is one mistake she does not want to make again.
And in the meantime, I will not be keeping any liquids anywhere near my laptop when my daughter is in the vicinity. See, I can learn from my mistakes too.