I’m hearing a word come out of my 6 year old’s mouth that really bothers me, I want to take it out of his vocabulary altogether, I wish he could unlearn it, but he can’t.
He says he wants his drawing, or lego or whatever he’s working on to be ‘perfect’ and he is so sad when it isn’t. I talk to him about perfect imperfections, how we learn from our mistakes, how nothing is ever perfect, how we all make mistakes. Eventually the sun comes out on his little face, he nods and tries again but still it is there, his drive for perfection.
He comes by it honestly. Stephen and I are both guilty of being perfectionists, with Stephen it is obvious, he is a high achiever and driven to get to the highest standard he can and he’ll work his socks off until he gets there. It’s me that says, ‘chill!’ and I know we balance well like that; he drives and I say slow down. But with me it is my frustration at always feeling that I fall short, always feeling that I can never, ever achieve what is, in my mind, perfection.
How can I teach my kids what I can’t seem to internalise? How can I pass on knowledge I don’t seem to possess?
When we moved into our house I was on such a high (still am really!) but after a few weeks the cracks started to show, one big meltdown later and I knew the problem. I wanted it all the be perfect. My notion on what is perfect was a little vague but it seemed to involve the children eating big piles of vegetables in an immaculate house after digesting a book on poetry whilst doing crafts. Tidily. Yep, that didn’t really pan out.
But I’ve yet to find my real vision, the one where things aren’t perfect but they are really great for a lot of the time. I’ve yet to sort out what matters to me and what doesn’t, because that is what the quest for perfectionism does to me, it stalls my thinking and makes me depressed. I think ‘I’ll never get there’ so I don’t even dream and then I’m all grumpy. And when I’m grumpy I really like to spread it around, yeah I rock like that.
When I apologise to Huwyl for losing my patience (as I do every day) he says something great like “Everyone overboils, don’t worry about it” or “You’re the best Mum, even when you’re angry”, and then I truly know that I suck. Because I don’t forgive so easily, I don’t have such a light heart and I don’t have the excuse of being 6, I should know better. But I’m tired and busy and I just can’t quite get to be that great Mum that I want to be, not at 4.30 when Neirin won’t sit still and Huwyl is complaining about dinner and they both want tv and the dog pees on the floor and there is still so. much. to. do.
Watching Huwyl being tripped up by that demon perfection really shows me what an undermining force it is. He will give up half way through a picture and I understand that impulse. Like him I’m afraid to see through my ambitions, convinced that I can’t really achieve it, that failure is inevitable. If we can’t achieve perfection what is the point? But I’m not willing to let him be hobbled by this, I want to help him look past the myth of perfection and have a clear vision of what it is that he wants and can do now.
But that means I’ve got some work to do. Because I can’t teach something that I can’t do. So I’m laying down my dreams for this coming winter season, I’m going to bravely state my goals (in public!) and defy perfection with my ambition.
– Make some of my own clothes, things that actually suit me! Get to know my brilliant sewing machine and get making! I’d love to take this course, the patterns look brilliant.
– Sleep, a lot. A refreshed Mummy is a happy Mummy. Bed by 9pm at least 4 times a week.
– Take time to learn about whole food nutrition and work on my eating and health. Losing weight would be great but feeling energetic is the most important. This e-course looks amazing.
– Write at least 3 blog posts a week.
– Start being kinder to myself over my appearance, head held high and a big smile. Take time to do nice things for myself so that I can feel good.
– Forgive myself for my imperfections, every day.
– Dream. Really spend time thinking about what I’d like to do with my life and believe I can.
– Speak up! Set aside time for my goals and be open about what I’m trying to do rather than keeping it all inside because it isn’t as important as what others want.
– Make a plan for organising and decorating our home, share it with Stephen and make it happen.
– Learn to use my camera, it’s ok if every photo isn’t perfect, the learning is more important.
– Write. Articles, letters, blog posts, stories. All those crazy thoughts in my head, put them down on paper and worry if they make sense later!
– Laugh at myself, I want to be less serious with the boys, laugh more with them and help them see that I know when I get things wrong and it’s ok. I’d also actually like it to be ok.
That’ll do for now I think, not a bad list I’d say. So when Huwyl gets upset over something not being perfect I can look him in the eye and say “No one is perfect, all we can do is try our best” and know that I’m sticking to that too.
My friend sent me a great quote by Salvador Dali “Don’t be afraid of perfection, you’ll never achieve it.”
Words to live by.