I've realized something about myself - I'm a perfectionist. Let's step back for a second. I've actually always known this fact. As a kid I spent hours at the piano because if I made even one mistake, I subjected myself to the self-imposed flogging of starting the song over from the beginning again and again until it was perfect. That's a lot of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"s!
What I've realized is that it's tough to be a mom who is a perfectionist. I'm self-aware enough to ensure that I don't subject my kids to the tortorous and often neurotic routines that make up my daily existence. Although my eldest is fairly uptight about making sure his stickers are always placed precisely inside the lines, I think the boys will dodge both therapy and the musical stockade of Faber's Piano Primer. But...I'm not so easy on myself.
Two kids, a miscarriage, a lengthy bout with post-partum depression and several months of therapy helped me realize that sometimes good is good enough in this world. This is the mantra that runs through my head every day. Every day as I'm beating myself up for not getting the toilet cleaned while finishing my weekly column, teaching my oldest to write his name, teaching my youngest to maneuver stairs, cooking dinner and trying to save the world, I say to myself,
"Good is good enough!"
But saying it is one thing, and living by it is quite another. And the hardest part is that the very loud voice that lives inside my head doesn't always believe it.
As a result of this, I have a hard time letting other people in. I know that people love to share other people's problems- there wouldn't be room on the airwaves for 9 million different talk shows if people didn't enjoy reveling in the misery of others. I just don't enjoy subjecting people to mine. Because - and if you've followed the perfectionist line of thinking thus far, this shouldn't come as a surprise - sharing problems is admitting fault. Admitting fault is admitting imperfection.
The craziest part of it all? I don't judge other people for their problems - little or big. And I don't care one lick whether other people perceive me as perfect or not. It's not about some great Wizard of Oz show that I put on for the benefit of others. The smoke and mirrors about the perfection of life is all something that I've created for my own internal judge and jury.
Now, here's the kicker! You can spend an entire life trying to control things. Don't know the material well enough? Study harder! Can't run that race fast enough? Practice longer! You get the point. You can even work pretty hard to ensure that your lovably imperfect husband succumbs to your craziness. Boxers always on the floor? Nag until he picks them up! But throw two kids into the mix. Two living breathing kids who are trying to find their own way and establish their own personalities, and control goes right out the window.
My son is shy and has a hard time making friends? Nothing I can do about it except love and support him. My other son doesn't like to eat and won't gain any weight? Aside from jamming a funnel in his mouth and force feeding him a liquid diet, nothing I can do except offer food and love and hope that it will all work out.
These are not life-marring things. These are not uncommon things. In fact, if you talk to other moms, you'd probably find that these things are more common than not. But once again, here's the problem. Talking about them is admitting something less than perfection to myself. So I don't! I wring my hands, I stew about them, but I don't simply call up a friend and laugh about them. All that worrying is tiring, I know!
So today, I was given a gift. My neighbor called me up. Her son needed a playdate and my neighbor needed a playdate. A playdate to share some of her simply-out-of-her-control mommy issues. And I shared mine, too. You know what? It wasn't that hard. In fact pretty easy. And I'm still here. My very good, but perhaps not perfect, life didn't come tumbling down around me. Today, I remembered that good is good enough. And when I let down my guard long enough to share it with a friend, it might even be great!