Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Perfectionism Is Not Perfect

I have been letting my daughter help me with chores a lot lately. She likes to help me do everything. She stands on a chair at the counter in the kitchen with her little apron on and helps me cook and bake. She likes to help me fold clothes and she likes to help me sweep. She is a good little worker! But she's 3 1/2 so things are done the way a 3 1/2 year old would do them. I have a little touch of perfectionism, maybe even OCD. It's hard for me to see a hanging picture just slightly askew and not want to fix it. A random hair or string on someone's shirt drives me nuts, the itch to fix it tingling through my hand as I desperately try hard to not pull it off, especially of someone who I don't even know. And folding towels....oh my goodness....they're probably my favorite thing to fold, I LOVE how they square off in perfect lines when I have folded them, the stack of them neatly arranged.

However, a 3 1/2 year old does not care about keeping the flour in the mixing bowl when we're baking and she doesn't care about neatly stacked towels or even shirts that are right-side out or socks matched correctly. All she cares about is helping her mommy and being praised when she is done, regardless of whether she did it perfectly. She doesn't know what "perfect" is and I have slowly learned that my idea of perfect is not really important. What's important is that I allow my daughter to do as much as she can within her own measure of abilities and creativity. She is so happy when she hands me a sloppily-folded washcloth or a mismatched pair of socks...who am I to take that joy away from her and for what, because it doesn't look exactly how I would do it?

It's taken me a long time and lots of self-control to not go back behind my daughter and fix her sloppy folding or take the spoon away from her when she's stirring half the contents of the bowl onto the counter. I have been learning more and more that the more positive feedback I give my children, the happier they are (and this includes letting things be). I have also learned that just because I do things a certain way sometimes doesn't mean they have to be done that way by others and this extends into other areas of my life as well. I've been getting kind of lazy with doing things "perfectly" anyway. I have my children to thank for that; they have taught me these wonderful lessons just by being themselves.

I just don't see what good can come out of ridiculing my children just because they don't do things exactly how I think they should be done. And if I'm just going to go back and do it over because I think they didn't do it right, maybe I should have just done it myself in the first place. But how does that teach my children anything positive and where does that leave room for the praise that a mother is supposed to give her children or the joy that children are supposed to be allowed to have? I have to think about how God sees us as His children. We are the furthest thing from perfect, no matter what we do, yet He still loves us and He doesn't punish us for doing things imperfectly. So who am I to do that to my children?

So when you come to my house, you might see mismatched pairs of socks in my children's drawers and you might see inside-out, sloppily-folded washcloths in the cabinet in the bathroom. And some of them might even be fixed that way by yours truly. And when my daughter says "I did it, Mommy!" you will definitely hear me say "Awesome job, baby, it's perfect."

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