Tough Lessons on Imperfection— Mommy Daze

Recently my oldest son had to learn the hard lesson of imperfection. I say “hard” because I’m a perfectionist, and sadly, he seems to have inherited the same trait. He hates when he can’t finish something -- so do I. He hates when he gets distracted from his work -- so do I. He will stress himself out to get something just right -- so do I.

rsz lessons on imperfectionIronically, I was the one that had to deliver the lesson on imperfection. As his kindergarten class’s “Room Mom”, I go into the class once a week to test the kids on the words they’re learning. It’s an easy quick little test where I show them flash cards and they tell me the words. Obviously, each child is different and learns at their own pace. My son though tends to speed his way through learning anything new. He always has. He barely crawled before taking off walking. His first “word” was more like three words together. He loves learning and picks things up quickly. We’ve never pushed him or encouraged perfection, but he has naturally always strived for it. I imagine it will be a blessing and a curse in his life.

So as his class’s “Room Mom”, I’ve also been the one to test my son on his words. He loves practicing them at home and knew most of them just from reading along in books. Week after week he would read through the flash cards and move up to the next list of words. Eventually after going through all the lists, some of the kids advanced onto writing down the words during the test. It was here that my son got his first ‘wrong’ answer. He handed over his list to me and I circled the one he’d misspelled. He couldn’t believe it. A few of his classmates had also misspelled a few, but they happily skipped back off to class yelling over their shoulder “see you next week James’ Mom!” But my son just stood here, eyes welling up with tears, chin trembling, fists curled into a ball. I tried to encourage him. He’d have none of it. He stormed off to a corner of the classroom.

As I finished up testing the other children on their words, my son stayed in the corner, ignoring his friends who were concerned for him. At one point he came to me and demanded I take him home. Apparently, he never wanted to come back to school. Ever. I told him that was against the rules to leave school like that (he’s a real rule follower, as you can imagine). Eventually he did come around, wiped away his tears, and sat back at his table with his friends. I was so proud of him for deciding to put his disappointment behind him and move on with his day. This was huge for my kid! He used to have his whole day ruined by the slightest setback. Before I left, I slipped him a little note that said how much I loved him. He gave me a huge smile and hug.

Did I want to scoop him up and take him with me that day? You bet! I want so badly to protect my kids from ever feeling disappointed. But that’s not realistic. Instead I’m trying to figure out how I can just walk alongside them through the disappointment. How can I encourage them to do their best, but still feel valued and proud of themselves if they don’t? I think the answer is grace. I want to teach them how to have grace for themselves, which is tricky when I rarely have grace for myself! I hold the highest standards for myself and am my own worst critic when I fall short, but what is that showing my kids? Instead I’m trying to point out to them the times I don’t always do the right thing. I know that goes against my parenting instincts sometimes; never show weakness! But so far, the times that I’ve let my guard down, been honest with them about my own shortcomings, it’s helped us grow closer as a family. It’s also opened the door for them to discuss with me their own disappointments and fears of failure. Even as a six-year old, my son tries to carry the world on his shoulders. I think my job as his mom is to remind him that we all drop the ball sometimes, and yet the world keeps on spinning.

Click here to read more Mommy Daze.

Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.