The great thing about having children is that you get instant feedback on how you’re doing as a parent.
Granted, some parents likely turn that button off real quick with punitive retaliation because the input is too threatening for weaker sorts of people. But if you are more concerned with raising good kids than making them pretend that you are a better parent than they truly think you are, you discover a whole lot real fast.
I introduced you to 3 previous lessons my son has taught me last week and thought I would follow up with three more.
3 (more) Lessons from my 7-Year Guru
Lesson #1: “Not everything has to be perfect!”
When I ask Jacob to go clean his room, he often disappears for a grand total of about 10 seconds (and that’s rounding up!) before coming back out again thinking he’s done.
That’s when I give it a look, only to find a clutter-free walkway about two feet wide from his bed to the door. And that’s the only clutter-free part of his otherwise cluttered room. Toys, books and frog origami (his latest passion) cover everywhere else (okay, I might be exaggerating a little, but not much!).
When instructed to go give it another try, he insists it is clean. I’ll often take him by the hand through his dumping grounds, pointing to piles of LEGO and assorted Target-bought play things scattered pell-mell. His response?
“Not everything has to be perfect, daddy!”
So true! And while some things should be much closer to a state of perfection than to a state of utterly abandoned chaos (ie: Jacob’s room, all too frequently), he still makes an important point, even if not always applicable to the thing he’s aiming the point at.
The Danger of Perfectionism
Too maddenly often, we dream and wish for something bigger, better, happier but never begin creating the bigger, better, happier life we long to have for fear that it won’t work out, that we might fail or that others will laugh or oppose or criticize. We wait and prepare and study and train until we can almost justifiably justify the excuse that it’s just too late to start something new now. That’s so sad to me.
Perfectionism should never prevent us from pushing off the starting line. Dreams are not meant to fill us with regret, wondering what could have been. They are supposed to inspire us to reach and chase and transform and create and construct and climb. If they don’t work out the way we hoped, that’s okay! We had a good ride! Or picked up a new avocation.
We don’t always have to get paid to do what we love to do.
We just have to do them! If you love to write, then write! If you love to sing (or paint or build or talk), then sing (or paint or build or talk)! If no one ever offers you a dime to watch or read or hear what you love, that’s okay too! Do it anyway. Spending your life doing what moves you is not a terrible way to live a life!
Public Disclosure: I tend to be somewhat of a perfectionist myself (my Mom tells me that when I was learning to speak (who am I kidding—I’m still learning to speak!), I would hide behind the couch to practice saying a new word before trying it out loud. That tendency has faded, but hasn’t gone away entirely either.
But I’m getting better, though. I’m learning to borrow my son’s philosophy: It doesn’t have to be perfect!
Lesson #2: Playing is a good unto itself
The single most repeated question I’ve heard my boy ask me since he was old enough to ask for anything is this: “Can you play with me, daddy?”
And so we play … a lot! We play soccer and tetherball, Uno, Yamslam, Lego and Hero Factory. We have tickle fights and play fights and lightsaber fights. We wrestle and chase and tag and hide and seek. And my life is the richer for it.
Never be so old as to be indifferent to play. Life wasn’t made to simply be fun. No adrenalin rush in changing a poopy diaper or apologizing to your spouse for an insensitive comment. But a life without fun is not much of a life either. So whether it’s regular family game nights or sports or having friends over or going outside and playing tetherball with your kid, be sure to make time to build those memories.
What do you do for fun?
Lesson #3: When you know you’re loved, lots can be forgiven
My son has no doubt that I love him. We spend lots of time together and much of it is intimate: Holding and hugging, cuddling on the couch while watching a movie, reading to each other, curled up on the floor playing a game, taking turns massaging each others hands (sounds strange, but try it! It’s awesome!).
It is because of the tremendous bond between us that moments of frustration and misjudgment and overreaction can be so easily forgiven and dismissed. That is a profound lesson. So many mistakes can be made in our relationships if the people we love know without a shadow of a doubt that we love them.
Just be sure your mistakes are not of the kind that makes them doubt that love. If you have, there’s lots of repair work that needs to happen first.
Please share your thoughts below.