A Perfectionist Takes on Imperfect Parenting

As far back as I can remember, I have been a perfectionist.  Great things have come from this trait (good grades! scholarships! accolades!), but perfectionism is painfully limiting as well.  Let me let you in on a little secret…perfectionists aren’t good at everything (who is?) – they simply limit themselves to the things they are good at.  I don’t like to try new things.  I’ve held myself back from being there for someone in a time of need for fear of not saying the right thing.  And it’s terribly hard for me to let my guard down enough to make a close friend (behind the guard are ::gasp:: imperfections).

Then I became a parent.  3 sweet little angels were dropped at my doorstep and my world was turned upside down.  Control? I had none. Perfectionism went right on out the window…I was trying to survive people!  Truthfully, though, it didn’t go easily or without discomfort.  I still remember how mortified I was the first time one of my kids threw a fit in public.  Or wanting to die from embarrassment when we got an unannounced guest and the house was a disaster.  And, still today, I get a little uncomfortable when my kids ask me to draw something for them.  My drawing is not much better than theirs – one of these days they will laugh at my stick figures and I will cringe a little.

Despite the discomfort, though, I embrace the idea of imperfect parenting wholeheartedly.  I have come to let my children know me…all of me.  I have cried in front of them.  I have admitted that I didn’t have all the answers or don’t always know what to do.  I have run with them (something I do very poorly and slowly) and have allowed them to place their heads on my stomach…the part of my body that I hate the most.  I have served them frozen chicken nuggets and boxed mac & cheese far too many times and have stuck them in front of the television when I just needed a minute (or 60).  I have shown them my limitations and told them my resolutions – the parts of me that I am not proud of and want to change.  I have confessed to making mistakes and have asked for their forgiveness.  In the bond that exists between mother and child, I have felt safe enough to let my imperfections show.  For that, I have been rewarded in spades.

Realness breeds a connection like no other, because when you are real, it creates a space for the other person to be the same.  If I can accept imperfections in myself, then surely I can accept them in you, too.  From this, I have seen my children blossom with a compassion and flexibility that I know will serve them well.  I often describe them as “up for anything”…I have learned so much from their limitlessness.

My older daughter’s bed is the perfect (pun intended) symbol of the constant negotiations in my brain between perfectionism and imperfection.  I bought her the bed, her “big girl” bed, more than 6 months ago.  And then I promptly misplaced the hardware to assemble it.  So, for the past many months she has been alternating between sleeping in her brother’s room (he’s got bunk beds) or her bed (basically a mattress on the floor).  Multiple times a day when I walk by the pieces of her unassembled bed, which have taken up residence in my room, I start in with the negative self-talk about how ridiculous it is that I haven’t gotten replacement hardware and completed this simple task yet – why can’t I get my act together??  Then I look to her…completely unphased by the situation and sleeping wonderfully every night.  A few days ago I laid down with her at bedtime, as I often do, and she asked, “When we make my new bed, can you still lay with me?”  “No,” I answered since it’s a loft bed and definitely not my size. “Then let’s keep it this way for a while,” she decided.  I smelled her head and tucked her in close as she drifted off to sleep, savoring that feeling as she gets bigger and more independent by the day.  Sometimes, the beauty is in the mistakes and imperfections.

Don’t get me wrong; you’ll still see me trying to get the perfect shot of my adorable kiddos (and posting it to Facebook), spending hours planning out every detail of their birthday parties, or making cupcakes that match their pajamas just for funsies.  But there is so much more.  There are successes and failures and celebrations of both.  And, most of all, there is the incredible knowledge that my children know all of me – and love me just the same.


9 thoughts on “A Perfectionist Takes on Imperfect Parenting

  1. Yes. Thank you for this post. You know what? Twenty years down the line, the kids won’t care that they slept on a mattress on the floor, or that things were out of place, or that pictures weren’t the “perfect” one. They will remember the realness of their moms and of their lives, and they will have learned that life does not need to have every single piece in its perfect place…and they will be better off for it.


  2. So perfect. (Seriously I just typed that and then realized that I was calling your post about perfectionism perfect). I think it’s important to say “I don’t know” to my daughter sometimes, or to say, “I’m not sure, let’s figure it out together” or “I’m having a hard time today/with this.”


  3. Awwwww!!! I am right there with you. And for what it’s worth, my kids both sleep on a mattress and box spring directly placed on the floor. Haven’t even gotten around to buying the bed frames yet! Hopefully before college…


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