Friday, May 22, 2009

The Perfect Eviction

I am not perfect. A perfect parent I am not and nor will I ever be. But I used to try to be perfect and mentally punched myself around when I didn’t measure up on the perfect stick. In my earlier mommy days, I proudly carried the inauspicious badge of perfection. I wanted to feel everything the right way and be all things to this fragile new life. At many times, I was everything. But I’ve now realized that my earnest attempts at being ideal created quite the quagmire.

Trying to live to a prescribed script left me destined to disappoint. I’ve experienced times when I was so angry with my kids that I had to remove myself from their presence. I never read about THAT in a parenting book. I have dust bunnies in my home. And my kids misbehave and throw two-hour tantrums. I too, on occasion, misbehave. Dinner isn’t already planned and smushed blueberries exist on my floor for many, many days. Naturally, I’ve experienced many life moments that have been the opposite—full of light and joy. But I believe that in order to fully appreciate these, life provides contrast with the other, darker moments.

So I’ve had it. My perfection quest (and all associated frustrations) have finally illuminated the way to imperfect bliss. Calm and acceptance have transformed the space its previous “perfect” tenant occupied. I evicted perfection. I stopped aspiring for flawlessness and started embracing limitations, stains and mistakes.

It has since dawned on me that real parenthood is much like real marriage. Contrary to my early, romantic and naïve views, marriage is not always fairytales and sunset departures, unless you’re Cinderella. My naiveté provided me with a Cinderella-take on parenthood, too. In this swooning tale, Cindy and Princey live a rosy life where bluebirds rock their children to sleep while they make sweet love in the enchanted forest. Amazingly, neither of them work but money is always forthcoming. Cindy still wears a size zero (one-hour after giving birth). The babies don’t poop or cry, throw-up or throw tantrums or throw trucks.

Although I used to aspire to some varied version of that life, I now reject it. The brightest spots of my life are illustrated through the smoky screen of mistakes, dirt and frustration. So now, instead of striving for the unattainable, I savor the reality of life as a real wife and mom, with real children (and a very real husband). Happily. I embrace my imperfections and discard my impossible perfection quest. And not too surprisingly, this delivers many days when my own muddled life, tumbled agonies, and soaring growth impart immeasurable joy. Hopefully, my imperfection grants my children the same reprieve, allowing life to be lived and experienced, not perfected.


Christopher Laney said...

Well put. I, too, had a strong perfectionist streak, but I didn't make any progress on my true path in life until I let go of it. The trick now is staying a few imperfect steps ahead of it. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

also, loved the reference to the imperfection of marriage...would love to read a full piece on that.

Anonymous said...

LOVE this! As a former Superwoman myself, life is so much richer not without the NEED for perfection :)