There seems to be this rage against ‘perfectionism’ in the blogosphere. One of my sisters sent out an email with a link to a beautifully written and funny blog wherein the blogger confessed, with pictures, to all of her imperfections. I laughed while I read it, and thought, ‘Me? Push perfectionism? Have you read my blog?’ I wrote back that I hope I don’t perpetuate perfectionism, her response assured me that I didn’t.
Wait, what do I perpetuate? For women I think you either fall on presenting yourself like you’ve got it all together or you’re uber self deprecating. I know I tend to land on self deprecating. Most of the time it’s done for humor. I like myself, I know what I’m good at, I might complain, but if you corner me I actually like my life, I like my body, I like my face, I like my husband, and I like my kid. Some of that has to do with just plain giving up, my boobs and butt are not going to magically morph into Sofia Vergara’s so I might as well learn to like them.
Today I think I did well. Not perfect but well. Not ever perfect, but good with no harm done, that is what I strive for. The past few weeks while we’ve been potty training have been a mess, literal and figurative. There’s been temper tantrums and crying, from everyone but Scott. So here’s how it went:
I hauled myself out of bed at 7:30 to my husband snuggling with Emma on the couch, he was reading a book on theology and she was watching The Wiggles. And there was coffee already made. [Loss of perfect points because there was TV involved and Scott got up with the kid, because shouldn’t I be doing it all?]
Breakfast, and shower. Scott leaves for work. I ‘Dora’ Emma and give her a bowl of dry cheerios to eat in front of the TV while I ‘finish’ myself. No makeup, passable job on hair, and yoga pants. [Still a loss of points, because there was TV involved and if I was perfect wouldn’t I have managed to get makeup and stylish clothes on without using TV?]
9:00, I turn off TV, there were protests but no tantrums. I say she can watch some after her nap. We’ll see if I follow through. I clip her into her booster seat with play-do. She asks for the blue and happily goes at it. I sit next to her and watch, at one point I lean over and show her how to correctly use the cookie cutter to make shapes. She starts screaming and tears the star I made into little bits. Ugh. I don’t react, I think. I don’t know if I would like it if someone messed with my play-do, but this is a totally unacceptable reaction. I don’t let feelings of rejection or hurt come in, because after all it’s just play-do and this isn’t about me, it’s about her. I calmly tell her reaction is unacceptable and rude. She calms down. She asks for the green, I ask if we can trade. Even when I was a child I hated when other kids mixed up the play-do. So through some bargaining and outbursts I get her to trade. I try to demonstrate skills with my own play-do, no go. Oh well I guess we’re not ready yet. She asks for the blue ball I just made, she does it politely and I give it to her. It gets mashed up with the green, I flinch. It’s not about me, it’s about her. After all I made the play-do for her, and really, what do I care? [I think I break even on perfect points here; because I was able to let my kid do something without getting too much of myself in the way, I tried to teach her things but let go when I realized she wasn’t ready.]
She begins to occupy herself with toys and I wash dishes and start laundry. When I taught high school art those students certainly didn’t need me hovering over them all the time. So I would sit at the large table where I did demonstrations and do something that I could break concentration on, like work on an example drawing or another piece of art unrelated to the class. I couldn’t grade, that took too much mental work, but I could stop drawing and walk around or stop to answer questions. That way I was accessible but allowing them to work on their own. I applied this principle to today. [Gain of perfect points, because I was able to allow her to play without me and get housework done. Some would say loss because I should be paying attention to my kid all the time, I disagree.]
At one point I put her up on the counter when I dyed some of the play-do red. The recipe I found for play-do involves cooking the dough and then kneading in the dye after it is done. I ended up with blue, green, purple, yellow, and ‘white,’ because I have a proclivity for Red Velvet Cake and never have red dye around. I actually had some today so thought I would dye the ‘white.’ I kept trying to show her the dye and how I was kneading it in, and, oh, isn’t that interesting? She of course got distracted by all the things on the counter, chocolates from Valentine’s Day, cake from Valentine’s Day, and kept repeatedly asking for all of them. She didn’t throw a temper tantrum when I said no, and I promised that she could have cake after lunch. Finally I put her on the ground because it wasn’t working. She climbed onto the couch and finished her bowl of cheerios from breakfast. She then put the bowl on her head and asked me if it was a hat. To which I said no and asked her if it was a shoe. We played that game for a few moments, very cute. [Broke even on perfect points, because the activity didn’t work, but I gave up when I realized it wasn’t, and there were no temper tantrums.]
After a little while of us mutually coexisting I spread out a blanket and got out a box of buttons and a muffin tin. (Why the blanket, you might ask? Because you can clean up easier, just scoop up the edges of the blanket and it doesn’t get spread all over the floor. Read that on a blog. BAM! One perfect point.) At first she protested that she didn’t want them. Then when I picked some up and dropped them in she became interested and started playing with the buttons. I sat down and continued reading a website with toddler activities. I found a math one where you draw numbers on pieces of paper and then place the amount of objects next to the number. I quickly cut up paper and drew numbers on them. I sat down next to Emma and demonstrated placing the correct number of buttons next to each number. She started placing more buttons on each piece of paper. Oh well, roll with it. I sat and watched her and then a few minutes later demonstrated that I had ‘One,’ button next to the ‘Number One.’ Same reaction. We’ll keep trying…[Gain of perfect points, I ‘crafted,’ came up with an educational activity for my kid, played with her, and let go when she wasn’t ready. Some might say that I should have persisted in the lesson, but is her learning to count about me being able to tell people that my kid can count or about her ACTUALLY learning how to do it when she’s ready?]
We ate lunch. Which she actually ate. Some of which I got her to eat by just pointing it out, ‘look, pear,’ and down it went. Then I followed through and gave her cake. [Gain of perfect points. Some might say loss, because I gave my kid SUGAR. I eat sugar. So it would smack of some hypocrisy if I didn’t give it to her.]
I used to have this wonderful vision of every evening patiently teaching my kid to clean up the day’s mess. I did it maybe once or twice. When I tried when she was eighteen months old she would get distracted and start playing with other toys in the bin. So I gave up. These past few weeks I have realized that if I get her to pick up her toys after lunch and before naptime I actually have the energy to lean over a toddler and get her to do it or to turn it into a game. If I wait until evening I give up and do it myself. After lunch I got her to pick up buttons and her Noah’s Ark set. [Break even on perfect points, because if I really was perfect I would do it in the evening and fulfill my fantasy and someone else’s ideal of what I should be doing for my life. While wearing pearls.]
I put her down for her nap. Diaper, pants (oh, she was pants-less all day because we’re still potty training), and four books. Half way through ‘Stellaluna,’ our ‘last book before naptime’ she hopped up and pretended to be a bat. I asked her if she wanted to read the book or go to her nap, she sat back down, and then hopped again and proceeded to fly around the room like a bat. I picked her up and plunked her in her crib, because I don’t care how ‘Stellaluna’ ends and apparently neither did she. She was fine with this development and happily snuggled with her blankey. [Loss of perfect points, because if she was perfect she would have sat through the whole book. If I was perfect I would have patiently waited for her to finish flying, all the while gently smiling because isn’t my kid so creative?]
For the afternoon she slept and I wrote. I also ate a gigantic piece of Red Velvet Cake and gave myself heartburn. [Loss of perfect points because if I was perfect I wouldn’t eat sugar, and even while pregnant I would still be skinny.] Right now if I was perfect I would leap up and start cooking dinner so it would hot and ready at exactly six o’clock. But I’m not, so I am going to finish my thoughts and dinner will be ready when it’s ready. So the day was not ‘perfect’ but I was present, I was mindful of my daughter’s needs, there were only small disconnects between Emma and I, I paid plenty of attention to her and also got a few things done. So next time you find yourself starting to climb into that box of ‘perfect’ ask yourself, ‘What is really important?’ Or, ‘Am I fulfilling someone else’s expectations for my life?’ Or, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Then do whatever you need to do.