Perfection

September 26, 2012 at 10:24 am | Posted in Horses, Kids | 2 Comments
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I’m watching my son try to become “king of the hill” in his karate class. They’re practicing Jujitsu wrestling, so this means he has to find a way to disengage and flip the kid on top of him over, then hold him down for a few seconds. I’m watching calmly, nodding and smiling at Brady and the Sensei, while my inner narrative goes something like this, “Come ON, Brady!! Get him! Just trap that arm – TRAP IT! Now bridge… BRIDGE!! You can flip him! You can win! You can be the best!!!” Meanwhile, I’m talking to a dad standing next to me about how it’s ok for our boys to not do it perfectly, and he’s telling me how hard it is for his wife to watch the class because she gets so frustrated when their son doesn’t do exactly what he’s supposed to do. I share this feeling and cringe inwardly all the time – especially with a child like Brady who doesn’t always go with the flow.

What is all this pressure, desire, demand to be perfect? Where does it come from, and why do we try so hard to achieve it and want it so badly for our kids?

I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist in that down-to-every-last-detail sort of way. That would be my husband. I strive for things to be very well done, but they don’t have to be perfect. Such as, I’ll make the bed because it looks nice and is lovely to slide into at the end of the day, but every sheet corner doesn’t have to be tucked in and the comforter doesn’t have to be flawlessly smooth. Of course, I do feel guilty if the bed isn’t made (bad mother, wife, housekeeper!).

My husband, on the other hand, will not even begin a task unless he can see it through to ultimate completion. Every single tiny cobweb must be off the exterior of the house, every flake of snow removed from the walkway/driveway/deck, every speck of dirt lifted from the interior of his car (Oh, you should SEE his car!! It’s 6 years old with over 100k miles on it and it looks and smells brand new! The man is super-human.).

So what of my boys?

Brady and I see a behavioral therapist once/week who has helped us immensely with his anxiety and other difficult aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome. Her philosophy is “We play games to have fun, not to win. Who cares who wins?” Who cares who wins?? I care!! What is that? It doesn’t matter who wins? Isn’t that half the fun of playing? Winning? And if I teach my kids that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose (I know, I know, ‘it’s how you play the game’ – I agree, that’s important, too), will they be slovenly couch potatoes with no drive? Is this something that comes from personality or programming? So many questions about perfection…

Back in the days when I used to show my horses, I started out wanting to win every class and getting really upset if I didn’t get a trophy or at least place. Over time, I realized that the important thing was that I had the best possible ride. If the judge didn’t see us or didn’t like my horse, I couldn’t really help that. I could only control what and how we did in the ring. But the important distinction here is that I still went in with the intention to win. I trained and practiced and hoped for it. I TRIED to win. And working that hard made me a better rider. What changed was my attitude. I learned to pet my horse on the neck, thank him for the great ride, and smile on my way through the outgate because my equine companion gave me everything I wanted, even if the judge didn’t.

I can see when Brady is practicing karate that he’s a lover, not a fighter. After wrestling for a few minutes, he’ll lie there and pat the kids’ head with whom he’s practicing. I can tell now by the way he glances at me as they play “king of the hill” that he’s trying to win for me, because he knows I want him to, not because he wants to. Maybe he’s just not that competitive. So what I’ve told him is that he doesn’t have to be the best, he just has to give it his best. Try his hardest. I suppose that’s all we can ask from any of us. I’m still going to try to win. But I don’t have to be perfect. And neither do my boys.

xo

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2 Comments »

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  1. Maybe he takes after his uncle Bill who, as you may recall, was also a lover not a fighter. I think you’re either born with the aggressive ( not in a bad way) gene or not. Brady is competitive about the things that matter to him. It sounds like karate just doesn’t fit that bill. He could do worse than turn out like his uncle Bill. On the other hand I totally understand your angst. Our kids fitting in and being succcessful (the best) matters to us even though some small voice tells us it shouldn’t. I admire your honesty and your wit and always look forward to reading your posts. It feels like a tiny visit!

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement 🙂 I guess we just have to keep it all in perspective – for ourselves and our children! xo


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