I am pleased to be able to share with you a recent life achievement. Through great conscious practice, over several years, I have let go of Perfectionism. Completely tossed her to the curb. I feel freer and happier than ever before.
OK, not every.single.second.of.every.day. I still have moments when Perfectionism beckons me, inviting herself back into my life and psyche. Generally, that happens when I haven't been getting enough rest. But truly, most of the time, I can report that I no longer give a hoot about Perfection, whoever she is, was, or will be.
When I was a younger mom, in particular, when I had one child, I had somewhat of a handle on things. I did a decent job, a good amount of the time. It wasn't until I had two that havoc ensued, when I got to really experience the agony and frustration of not being enough, not being able to do enough, not having enough arms, knowledge, patience, or energy. That was a tough awakening. I grieved so many instances of inadequacy, of well-laid plans going down the drain, of bizarre eruptions of chaos, disappointment, meltdowns, messes, sudden competitions over random objects and food products, and freakish, completely unforeseeable accidents (even though I scurried around trying to create safety). At first it was seriously disconcerting. After awhile, it became comical. And awhile after that, I decided to just let go and do the best I could--and really be okay with it.
I used to want to be so perfect for my kids. But now I see that we give our kids the most amazing gift when we choose to just be human. To accept our limits. To mess up. To say "Not today," or even just "No." To just make the dinner and let everyone groan and grouse. To just forge ahead anyway, knowing we'll get to listen to all the reasons why we didn't do it the right way. To just sigh and get to our destinations a few minutes late. Where I used to be aghast when things went wrong, now I just say, "Not ideal!" and move on. Now, I am thrilled and a bit surprised whenever things go smoothly.
Even if you can be perfect--in all the the myriad ways that modern parents and Attachment parents and Helicopter parents attempt to be--you can't be as real and as present. And you can't really prepare your kids for life. Everyone's kids are human, and there's a whole body of knowledge we deprive them of if we try to make ourselves and life be something else. Things like these:
- What do you do when your expectations don't match reality?
- How do you balance the expectations of others with your own experience?
- When do you get to give yourself some slack?
- Whose standards matter?
- How can we periodically check in with ourselves, to ensure that our own values are guiding our standards for performance?
The one thing I do know about myself as a parent is that I don't want my kids to spend/waste time beating up on themselves. I want them to be resilient, to take a crack at things, to treasure their successes, to not be undone by their failures. Most of all, I want them to know what's important to them.
The funny thing? Since Perfection and I got our divorce, I believe I've begun to do my best work ever. I trust myself to give any given situation my best shot, and most of the time, that's good enough. I'm definitely enjoying myself more.