Not too long ago...like last week as a matter of fact...I saw what my addiction to perfection was doing to me and more importantly to the little girl I was raising. My daughter, who is in the second grade, brought home on a Monday her folder full of the tests she had taken on Friday. Out of the four of them three were 100s and one was an 88.
My first thoughts were "How will she ever be valedictorian if she keeps getting 88s?"
My first words to her were "Well we will just have to study harder this week."
Yep...not good job...not way to go...not even how was your day. My first words were to basically tell my child you did not score a perfect grade thus you are not good enough in my eyes.
My child didn't even flinch. She had heard and seen my disappointment before. She just walked away with no emotion.
Later that night I realized my inner desire to be perfect had given me stomach ulcers in high school and had caused me to not enjoy playing the sports I loved in school because I was afraid I would mess up. The desire for perfection had continued on when I became a mother and I was the mom who smiled at school functions and sporting events then griped at my child the whole way home in the car. I was the mom who looked like I was able to do it all but in reality I was so unhappy some days I just wanted to get in the car and keep driving.
My need to be perfect and look perfect and have a perfect child was driving me crazy and was putting unhealthy expectations on the one person I loved most in this world. Worse yet I was providing a horrible example of what a loving, caring, supportive mother should be. I was more worried about what my kitchen looked like or if all the laundry was done than if my child felt heard, adored, and cared for. I was more worried about how things "looked" than how things really were.
Giving up an addiction to perfection does not totally happen in a week's time but some things do happen in just one week's time. When I see my child after school I talk to her first and look in her school folder last. We schedule time for playing and it gets just as much time as homework does. When she has a horrible softball practice I ask her if she had fun first and I leave the coaching to the dads who signed up to do that job in the first place.
It hasn't solved all our problems but in just a week's time I can feel the stress level coming down in our house. I can see my child laughing and smiling more. I can feel my body tension slowly melting away. I know we are both happier now than we were a week ago. My child might not be a valedictorian or the best softball player or the most popular kid in her grade but perhaps I can help to teach her more important things.
By demanding less perfection in school grades and sports I hope I can teach her bigger life lessons such as how to be a better person...how to help those who can't help themselves...how to forgive others and to forgive herself...how to find out what she loves to do in life (not what she thinks momma wants her to do)...how to be her own #1 fan...how to fail and try again and fail again and still be okay...how to accept people for all their imperfections...how to love herself as God made her.
After all, the world has lots of valedictorians and people who can hit homeruns but this world only gets one of my child...and she is God's perfect gift to me.