I struggle with perfectionism. It's been a battle for me my whole life, and while I'm hopeful that I'll be able to look back and laugh at myself when I'm 50...60...maybe 70?, it currently drives me crazy. Perfectionism is that sinking feeling in my gut when dinner is overcooked, the anxiety I try to suppress when my house isn't sparkling before guests come over, and the disappointment that overwhelms me when I have a Mommy Fail moment (small or large). And it's the pressure I'm putting on myself RIGHT NOW as I type this post...hoping I don't sound too lame or, God forbid, make a typo. (Side note: I signed up to have this post done in October...so, there's that.)
I'm sure many of you can relate. Thankfully, we don't have to be perfect! My husband keeps reminding me that no one is perfect, no one CAN be perfect, no matter how hard we try. Thinking I can be perfect is foolish...and is not honoring to the God who made me as I am - and LOVES me as I am. Not that God wants me to stay in a place that is detrimental, of course. But as I strive to grow as a woman and mother, I'm pretty confident that I shouldn't freak out and shame myself over my failures, and I certainly shouldn't put the same pressures on my sweet children!
I am constantly fighting what comes naturally (perfectionism) to do my best to prevent my children from suffering from the same disease. Amazingly, it's helping me put less pressure on myself. A couple of months ago I let my then-2-year-old carry his "big boy" cup of water to the table. I thought he could do it without spilling so I handed him the cup and watched him go - a big step for me, actually! Around the corner he went and then SPLASH! He didn't quite understand the need to hold the cup level. So I let out an exasperated sigh, mumbled something discouraging, and grabbed a towel. As I turned the corner from the kitchen into the dining room and got down on the floor to assess the damage, I looked at my little boy's face. I saw the concern in his eyes and the expression of shock on his gaping mouth, and I was devastated by my reaction. I immediately softened my face and changed my course of action. "It's ok, Buddy! I filled it really full, and it was not your fault. Besides, it's just water! It won't hurt anything." I knew some damage was already done, but I hugged him and smiled...he recovered and we ate lunch. And in that moment, I learned that it's ok, it was just water. And it didn't hurt anything. And it wasn't bad that I let him try something difficult. (For those of you who think I am now perfect - ha! - in this area, rest assured that just last week I lost my cool when he knocked over his cup at the table. Just being honest :-) )
I'm trying to let these lessons seep into all of my mothering areas. Like crafts. I don't like crafts that don't turn out the way they're "supposed" to, and I can't stand messy things. It makes me nutty. So, with great effot I got out the paints this Halloween, put a smock on my oldest, and let him paint the pumpkin he picked at Butler's Orchard. I gave him 3 colors with three separate paintbrushes. And I explained that if he mixed them they'd turn brown. And then I zipped my lip (mostly) and watched as he painted only the top half of his pumpkin. It actually turned out really cool, and if I'd intervened all the times I wanted to it would have been MY pumpkin and not his.
Being a mom is teaching me lessons I wouldn't have learned otherwise. It is humbling but I am so hopeful about the direction I'm going...and hopeful that my boys won't struggle with all the same things I have struggled with for so long. And on that note I leave you with a comic from the Washington Post from last Thanksgiving. I cut it out and it has been on my fridge ever since. As you will see, it has spoken to me very personally. I laugh every time I see it, but it's also a real reminder to me. If you read the comics, you've seen Baby Blues, and my guess is you can relate to it! If it is illegal to put this on here (I'm giving credit!!!), kindly let us know and we'll remove it...and I'll replace it with an inferior text version. Unless, of course, that is also illegal. Then never mind. Oh, and if you want to bear your perfecionist soul to me over a cup of coffee, this post was written by Rian Ryan :-)