My daughter loves to help. So much so, in fact, that she recently announced that her “job” is to help. We can’t quite figure what prompted the decision that she actually needs a job at age 5, but we’re going with it.
You would too. As it turns out, her help is actually quite helpful.
She helps unpack the groceries.
She helps unload the dishwasher.
She helps me sweep the floors.
She gets every necessary ingredient when we cook together.
She helps sort the laundry.
She even pours in the detergent and presses start.
Some of these things, she has been doing all along. The difference is that now she recognizes the value of her work.
She has always been praised for doing what is asked of her, but now she feels confident before the words of praise can even escape my mouth.
Lately, she’s been helping me organize the house a bit. Spring is upon us, technically anyway, and we are sorting, donating, and starting fresh.
The other day, as we were sorting old clothes, she found a shirt belonging to her brother that wasn’t quite right. The tags on the inside were all sliced down the middle.
“Who did this to the shirt”, she wondered aloud.
“Probably no one, sweet girl. It’s just slightly imperfect.”
“What’s slightly imperfect?”
“It’s when something isn’t exactly the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s still just fine.”
It occurred to me later that evening, as I reflected on this innocent conversation, that parenting often falls into the slightly imperfect category.
Sure, we all strive for our own version of parenting perfection most of the time. We try to feed them well, teach them what they need to learn at any given stage of development, get them to bed on time, and help them learn to be independent, confident, and empathic.
Yes, we aim for parenting perfection.
But most days, if we’re being honest, we probably end up with slightly imperfect parenting.
Perhaps the kids are sick. Again. And no one has slept for nights.
Perhaps it’s just that time of day when things get a little, well, crazy.
Perhaps there are other external stressors at play.
The whys are immaterial. The fact is that it’s nearly impossible to be the perfect parent every second of every day…
The good news is that it isn’t the imperfection that affects our children; it’s what we choose to do with it.
When we stop what we’re doing, think about our choices, and then proceed, we teach our children the value of thought before action.
When we get down low and apologize for an unfriendly voice tone or a mistake made, we teach our children that everyone makes mistakes but apologies go a long way toward repairing that mistake.
When we step away from the stress to take a few deep breaths, we teach our children that everyone experiences stress and everyone needs coping strategies.
I know there are people out there who make it seem easy. They always keep their cool and don’t sweat the small or big stuff. I’m often accused of being one of those very people. Rest assured, I gave up on perfect long ago.
Empathic? Yes. Loving? Yes. Overprotective at times? Of course. But perfect? Not me.
I know that mistakes will happen and I’m happy to get down low and make those apologies…because learning that perfect doesn’t actually exist is a very important lesson.
As far as I’m concerned, slightly imperfect is the new perfect.
Are you with me on this one?