Perfectionism is Negotiable

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” II Corinthians 12:9 (NIV).

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Why does it always seem when I’m particularly frustrated with an action or attitude any of my children are displaying, the origin of that behavior began with me? I realize if I’d change the way I approach my children or rethink my attitude regarding their behavior, usually it will go away or lessen. Not always…but more often than not.

I read a great article by Karen Ehman as part of the Vintage Homemaking Week. She was talking about how to encourage your children in the area of maintaining a house and/or helping with dinner. The part that stuck out to me like a neon sign was “Don’t expect perfection.” Ouch! As a recovering perfectionist, that’s a hard one. I don’t set out to be rigid. If you came to my house, you would soon discover it’s not photo op ready. We live in “organized chaos” most of the time. My prayer is you’ll enjoy eating cookies and drinking coffee or tea while you overlook the cobwebs or dust bunnies. However, I’ve found that my perfectionism and need for control tend to rear their ugly head from time to time.

After reading the above article and dwelling on it for a while, I was reminded of a practice psychiatrists put into place. When a family comes in for counseling, the psychiatrist will focus on stabilizing the parent while monitoring the child. That means, the parent will first be given medications to see if improve occurs. It’s hoped when the environment calms down, the child’s behavioral issues will disappear naturally. It’s the first attempt at stabilizing the family unit.

I decided I was going to try that for myself. It wasn’t necessary for me to start taking medication, but I determined I needed to let go of some of my “habits of control” so that I could then ease up on expecting perfection in my children. I really don’t want perfect children. I want children that are comfortable making mistakes so they can discover how to do it better the next time. I want to remember that messes can be cleaned up, but a child’s heart is soft and moldable only for short time. I want the memories my children have of me to be of silly, goofy times filled with laughter instead of “Better beware, I think mom needs a nap (or maybe some chocolate).”

I’m not perfect yet, but I’m improving. The same week I read that article, we were getting ready for a party for our teenager. There were some things I had to decide logistically, but everything else I gave him free rein, color of decorations and the choice of dessert to name but a few. We had a great time working together to make his day special, celebrating his choices, each having some creations to call their own. There was a lot of laughter that day. My prayer is that I can remember how much fun we had and keep working on making that the norm in our household. Childhood ends too quickly. Soon enough my kids will have to take on the responsibilities of adulthood – but what kind of adults do I pray they will be? Ones that have found joy in keeping a house and providing nourishing food dished up with a lot of fun? Or perfectionists who need to always be in control?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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