After my 5 minute breather yesterday afternoon, life decided to give me a pop quiz. Had I truly learned that lesson? Or was it just a fleeting thought? It’s easy to see the life lesson when sitting on the beach. Could I apply the theory to the real world?
When I got home from work yesterday, Christian was home. He had picked up a drum set for all the boys in our house from his friend (they are so kindly letting us keep it at our house until we buy it from them! It’s like layaway, but in our own home! Thank you Jon and Rachel!). If I’m going to have a house full of boys, we need a drum set! I love music despite my lack of music ability. Christian is incredibly talented musically. Cole loves music. I love a household full of music. Call me crazy, but I didn’t think twice about have drums in our house. For now the drums are in our garage. Christian and I told Cole to go out there to look around. We expected to hear excited. Maybe some banging. We didn’t hear anything. When Cole came back in the house, he said nothing. Did you see the drums in the middle of the garage? He saw them, and in that moment, he decided he didn’t want them anymore. My first thought – What kid doesn’t want a drum set? Really?
I know Cole well enough to know that this isn’t true. Cole didn’t see a drum set. He saw failure. He saw a drum set that he hadn’t mastered. He saw a drum set that he might not be perfect at when he starts to play.
Parenting my “perfect” child is challenging. It tries my patience. My initial reaction to his perfectionism is normally not what it should be. I get frustrated with him. I get frustrated with myself because I should be the perfect mom, right? I should know how to respond appropriate. I need to be better at recognizing when it is fear of failure that is fueling his bad behavior and not just bad behavior. (Any guesses who passed on the “perfect” gene to Cole?)
We struggled through the drum set melt down. I’m sure we will have a few more melt downs about the drums. I already have visions of him picking up the drumstick, hitting the drums once, and flopping them on the ground. Following this demonstration will comes words like See I told you I’m not good and I’m so bad at the drums. Those words will make my heart-break just a little. I’ll want to hug him and tell him to just keep trying (with an open mind). He will slump off to his bedroom. I’ll get frustrated. I’ll lose my patience as the self-hate talk continues. He will calm down. I’ll remember to breathe. We will talk about it. We will hug. Life will be just fine.
This is our cycle. I’m not sure it is a healthy cycle. I know I need better strategies to deal with his perfectionism. I know I need to start by letting myself of the hook for not being the perfect parent. I want to teach Cole coping skills. I want to teach him that perfect isn’t better. Sometimes failure is the best thing for us. I want him to learn that we have to start at the bottom. Nobody is perfect from day 1. Nobody is perfect on day 100.
One black cloud conquered. We were back in the sunshine…………….
Until it was time to conquer homework. Cole had math and spelling. He started to have a meltdown with the spelling words. He wasn’t speed sorting fast enough. He didn’t have enough room. We worked through that situation pretty easily. Whew.
Next up. Math.
Cole had to list 3 name equivalents for the #8 and #10. Name equivalent? 8 = 8. 10 = 10. Right? I asked Cole what they had discussed in class. He didn’t know. He had no clue what to do. I was no help. Cole had spent too much time drawing the perfect arrow on the bottom of his paper (several erased arrows were the proof of that theory) that he forgot to listen to the instructions.
I told him we would just do what we could, and I would send in a note to his teacher explaining why 2 problems were left undone. Yes! You guessed it! My “perfect” child wanted nothing to do with this solution. He needed to have the correct answer on his paper. He would get in trouble if he didn’t. He’d have to flip his behavior card. He would be a failure. Christian came to our rescue by calling our friend who is a teacher. She explained the terms to us. (Thank you Lindsay!) We were making progress. Cole still wanted nothing to do with it because he was afraid his teacher expected something different. He didn’t want to list the wrong answers.
Are you all exhausted from reading yet? I feel like I need to exhale after writing all of that down. I was completely exhausted by this point. What little patience was left was now completely gone. I didn’t have it in me to deal with another emotional meltdown over two small homework problems.
(And while all of this was going on, our cable and internet were disconnected from an apparent late payment despite that fact that I just payed our current invoice on the 15th? Not sure how a payment can be late when current invoices are being paid? Because we had no internet, we had no access to my bank information. Christian couldn’t get through to a person because we couldn’t find account number. Hello Stress! An hour later it was back on after Christian finessed his way through the customer service lines).
Please tell me you are exhausted at this point? I was done. I keep reminding myself that this was just a moment. I was trying to keep my Type-A personality in check will teaching my perfectionist child that it’s okay not to be perfect.
We tried to reason with Cole. We tried to explain that his teacher just wants him to try. We tried to tell him that it’s okay if one is wrong. None of this makes sense to him logically. In his world, he should be perfect. And I have no idea where to begin with parenting him when these situations occur now that they are becoming a part of our daily routine.
I don’t want to be the best mom. I just want to be the best mom for Cole. Every natural parenting skill I have inside of me goes against his natural tendencies to be perfect. I know I need to validate his feelings. His fear of failure is a very real feeling for him. I just need to learn how to navigate him through the dark clouds and back into the sun when these moments occur. I’m
begging open to any suggestions, book recommendations, strategies…..Does something work for you? your child? How do I teach him to find the balance between his perfectionist side and the part of him that is our tiny Buddha?
Once Cole’s homework was completed, I was ready for bed. I was ready to shut my bedroom door, read a book, and have a glass of wine. I was ready to sulk under my rain cloud. As tempting as this sounded, I couldn’t send Cole to bed feeling like a failure. He is as confused and as frustrated by his perfection as I am. Instead of sending him off to bed and hiding, we sat down together and read a chapter in our bedtime book, The Fire Within. We enjoyed a dozen pages of dragons and squirrel traps and crazy characters. We didn’t talk about his homework anymore. Instead we went about our nightly routine as we always have in our household. There is always a comfort in routine. I want him to know that he won’t be punished for striving for perfection. Had I sent him to bed and hid for the rest of the night, he would have carried guilt to bed with him. Instead of going to bed with dark clouds, I sent him to bed with blue skies.
This morning he woke up happy and ready to conquer Friday. Thank goodness there is no homework on Fridays!
I think I got a passing score on my pop-quiz. It certainly wasn’t a perfect score, but right now our household is striving for anything but perfect.