Confession #1: I am a perfectionist who is slowly trying to become reasonable. Letting my daughters choose their own outfits with minimal Mama vetoing is a big step forward. Some days if you walked in there might even be last night's dishes still in the sink and I'm feeling less guilty about it.
The real problem with being a perfectionist is that when you add children to the mix, it starts to stress them out. What I define as the standard for myself as an adult may not always be obtainable for me but is exceedingly outrageous for a child. I don't regret having high standards for our children but I need to make sure that the standards are appropriate to the child.
Each of my children are different. I have the black and white, law and order, struggling with the transition from cute child to tween oldest child. I have the full color spectrum, wild and crazy, extremely sensitive middle child. To complete the package, we also have the boy--little enough to still pull the cute card, bossy because he has two older sisters, and already wide open with anything equipped with wheels.
What really brought my own attitude about perfection to light was receiving some test results in the mail last month. The girls both took Math and Reading tests at school. When I was reviewing their scores, I found myself evaluating each individual line and comparing it to the test taken last fall. That might seem like a responsible parent except that I was extremely concerned that a couple areas had scores a few points lower than last time. Two or three areas even moved from the High level to Average. What was going on? What were they struggling with? Their report cards were very good and didn't note any deficiencies. We were really going to need to work on those areas more. I was already adapting their homework time.
I had catapulted into compulsive mode in a very short amount of time. Then the conviction started to wash over me. Why did I want them to be in the High category for everything? Tests scores don't measure the compassion that they show to other children in class or the assistance they give their teachers. Tests don't calculate their ability to share the gospel in their own little ways throughout the day. There are qualities in my children that are just as important (sometimes more) than intellectual prowess. Am I trying to make myself look better by the achievements of my children?
What I really need to strive for is that they are doing their own best. There will come a time when there will be lower grades on their report cards. There will be a time when they don't do well on a test. I need to make sure that they understand that we still love them even when they fall short of perfect because perfect isn't realistic.
What are we teaching our children if first is the only acceptable result? How will they form compassion for others if they are seeking only the pride of being first? I don't want to create an unrealistic standard that they spend their entire childhood striving to achieve. I want happy, healthy children. They may not be the star of the team. They may not be the Valedictorian. They may struggle along the way. I really just want them to love the Lord and be his best workmanship.