Do we live in a perfect world? Seems pretty obvious that we don’t, yet many of us parent as if we reside in a place where everything is just so, no muss, no fuss. Our children never make mistakes, our homes look like something out of Martha Stewart Living all the time, our child rearing decisions are always right.
Only that’s not how life goes. No one actually thinks like that, but—and you knew there would be a but—isn’t that exactly what we do whenever something happens outside of our plan?
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomefield/
When things go wrong—as they do on a daily, if not hourly, basis—instead of viewing the situation through the lens of “This is how life is,” we often go into crazy mode, scrambling to fix the problem without stopping to think whether it’s ours to fix or not. This is not to say that every time something happens, we just shrug and step over the mess on the floor, but it does mean we don’t act like every misstep is the End Of The World As We Know It.
For example, your seventh grader comes home with a failing grade on a major science test, and you treat it as if it’s a major diplomatic snafu involving nuclear war heads by wailing about his “throwing away his chances to get into an Ivy League university.” We have become a nation of parents whose default is to treat every crisis with our children as if it’s The Crisis To End All Crisis. What’s happened is that we’ve trained ourselves to expect perfection, and anything that happens not according to our own perfect plan, we slam into overdrive to fix it.
That sends a signal to our children that perfection is all that matters, which is not what we should be wanting from our kids. It’s not perfection that we’re after—it’s the ability to pick yourself up, to brush yourself off and to start all over again (with apologies to the 1936 song “Pick Yourself Up,” by Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern).
Perfection isn’t something to be desired, although we should always try our best and expect the same from our children. Perfection isn’t something to be held up as the be-all, end-all. Perfection isn’t a way of life; it’s a way to make life miserable for all.
As your children live and grow and make mistakes and have successes, you will find that the elusive perfection you thought you wanted isn’t as important as the smudgy kisses after a day making mud pies. Or the blistered hands of a kindergartnerdetermined to swing on the monkey bars. Or the C on a math test that stretched a fourth-grader’s brain. Or the third-tier college choice of a high school senior.
Our kids will surprise us with what they can do and what they will achieve if we only let go of perfection and embrace the wonderful, messy, joyous, and difficultness of reality.
Until next time,