H is a perfectionist. She comes by it honestly. Her momma was/is a born perfectionist. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence in the mind frame that if I tried once and was not immediately excelling at whatever it may be, then I should find something else that I was good at. Eventually this evolved from being very leery of trying *anything* new because there was always that risk of being imperfect, not the best; essentially in my brain: a failure. And thus I stuck with what I knew and what I was great at because I couldn’t stand to let others down by being less than.
As an adult, and most specifically due to motherhood, I have *mostly* learned from, and outgrown, my perfectionist ways. They still creep up on me every now and then.
But this made it so, so easy to notice these tendencies in my daughter at a very early age.
I’m still figuring it out, but I am absolutely determined to help her handle her perfectionism in healthy ways and cultivate it for good.
No one ever told me it was okay to not excel at everything. No one told me that being challenged and thus, not instantly the best at something, was a good thing. No one told me that simply not being good at something at all was perfectly acceptable. No one told me that is was okay to do something I loved even if I wasn’t good at it at all.
And so H will know these things (as will her brothers).
She is the only 6 year old in her gymnastics class. Her classmates are all 10 and 12. H loves gymnastics passionately (I’ve come to realize that ballet will never have her heart as I wished it would, and that’s okay!) She did not immediately excel at running round-offs and back bends and cartwheels on balance beams. She had to work *so hard*. Sometimes she’d get mad or frustrated and that little girl in me would want to say, “It’s okay to stop. You don’t have to do this.” Because I knew the pain and frustration of feeling like you’re less than. Don’t worry though. I put a muzzle on that little girl and duck taped her into a closet and the momma in me instead let her lament her frustrations to me and listened patiently. And then I validated those emotions and pointed out how far she’s come. And how far she’ll go with more hard work. Being challenged is a *good* thing. That’s how you learn and grow.
She auditioned for a show choir recently. I held my breath. She can carry a tune better than her momma, but she’s definitely no prodigy. But I encouraged her to try it if she loved it, and prepped her that it was also okay if she didn’t make it.
After her audition I asked her how it went and she replied with, “Mom, I was amazing, of course. I’ve got this.”
Ya’ll, this girl *has got this.*
And she made it (I’m pretty sure all the little kids did). And she’s over the moon and ready to challenge herself. Which is a good thing. Because I eventually gave up a deep love of performing because I wasn’t half as confident as H. I didn’t know it was okay to be confident and not be the very best.
So this morning while H was reading a book to me and got jumbled up on a long word she’s never come across and immediately began sobbing (see this is where little Ki and momma Ki are two useful people to have in my head. The momma was like “wtf, this is not a rational response” and the little girl was like “this is so rational. I get it. Would you like me to throw that book across the room for you?”) I was able to help her.
“I’m terrible!” She screamed at me. “I don’t know that word! I’m such a failure.” (Note to self: discover who introduced her to the idea of being a failure and cut their tongue out. In a very kind and loving way that is for the good of all humanity, of course).
“You are not a failure. Even if you never learn to read this word, you are not a failure. You failed to read the word correctly, yes. But we rarely get things perfect the first go around. To fail something does not make you a failure. Not trying does.”
She cried for a few minutes on my lap. Then she picked that book back up, and she nailed that word perfectly on the second try.
I’m just making this shit up as I go. Some days I feel completely ill-equipped for this parenting gig. But I remember that there is a reason God chose me to be the momma of these three beautiful babes.
And just like I’ve told H, so many, many times. “To fail does not make you a failure. Simply not trying does.”
And so every day I try my very hardest, but I give the perfectionist in me a lot of grace. Some days I am challenged, and that’s okay. I am not the best at any of it, but I’ll keep doing it because I’m terribly passionate about these three tiny humans. And that’s all that matters