Perfectionism and I have had a long standing relationship though for many years I did not recognize it. In second grade I found a picture in the brownie handbook of how to keep your room clean – it showed a messy room and a neat room – complete with very neatly folded clothes in the drawers. I remember staring at that picture often, trying to arrange my furniture the same way and trying to keep my whole room, drawers and all, as orderly as the girl in the picture did.
So the roots of this trait go way back for me and while it has served me in some ways, it has hurt me in others. It helps me to be disciplined, organized and responsible but I am thankful that I have a learned to flow a bit more especially with family life. Living with 3 boyz and a highly energized husband has definitely pushed me to accept many ‘less than perfect’ situations- messy rooms, ‘stuff’ around the house, a schedule that is ever changing…but I have also been acutely aware that I have held onto that trait in other ways – being hard on myself and more easily stressed than I need or want to be and therefore harder on my family than I would care to admit even to myself …… especially to myself.
This pile of college flyers that have been coming in the mail in triplicate for the past 18 months or so (much is tossed but much gets thrown here) …it has sat in upstairs hallway and I have learned, for the most part to ignore it….this is just one of many spots in my house that needs to be cleaned out!
Perfectionism tends to create an ‘if only’ mindset. ‘If only I had done things ___ way , everything would be perfect’. I think this about parenting situations all the time and this has been heightened by the sense that ‘I only have another year left with the boyz ‘to fix all that I have done wrong’.
But I have been given a gift recently. We were looking thru photos and short videos and came across a video clip of Christmas 2004. We were in a temporary house as we were building our current home. Many of our decorations were in storage so we had fun making due and it was nice to just be simpler that year. It is of note as well that my dad passed away from cancer on November 24 of that year so I was not up to major decorating and festiveness. So, in a moment of irrationality, I thought it would be fun to string popcorn for the tree…You know – think ‘Little House on the Prairie’ style – pure innocent holiday bliss ;). Well the reality of stringing popcorn (a very tedious task I might add) with three 4 year olds was not all ‘deck the halls’ and ‘ho ho ho’….I went upstairs to go to the bathroom (one downside to that house – bathrooms only on second floor!) at one point and came down to a room covered in popcorn (naturally- 3 unsupervised active boyz and a huge bowl of popcorn! – what did I think would happen?) So I yelled – I felt stressed, on edge and this was not what I had wanted this little activity to be like. So long story long – when I think of Christmas in ‘the yellow house’, I think of that time and how upset I am with myself for not just laughing, enjoying the adorableness that is 3 preschoolers making a popcorn mess (very clean-up-able, as we all know)..and how my stress (in midst of building house, working, grieving….) impacted the boyz. Well upon seeing a short video of that same living room, that same tree (some popcorn strew on it) and those boyz – dancing shirtless like madmen to their favorite Christmas song at that time, I felt a huge sense of awe – that they were happy and I was watching them, attentive and reveling in their joy- not stressed and frustrated as my memory tells me I was. I was able to have some grace with myself as I was navigating a stressful time in the midst of the Christmas season of joy that year.
This is the only photo I had from that year…boyz with Gram….the videos are grainy and old so would not transfer well…note the popcorn on the tree 🙂
Steve has been trying to tell me all along ‘you are a great mom’..his favorite quote used to be ‘hey – at least you don’t lock them in the closet’. While I appreciate that I do not overtly abuse my children, I am also keenly aware that it is often the subtle things we do as parents that impacts our children in significant ways (sometimes I wish I were ignorant of this- ignorance is bliss). But in watching the video and looking at pictures, I was able to see what he has been saying – that amidst those ‘mistakes’ were lots of moments of fun, joy, connection, and love. It is up to me which I choose to focus on, feed and help flourish.
Lots of love and light,