Somehow I want to soften this story to make it appear, well, perfect. But alas. That is the moral of the story. I am not. Neither are my children. And that is very good news. But first, allow me the story behind the moral.
A friend ordered Salem a customized potty training book. The little bear in the story was named Salem so page after page revealed a cute little bear talking to the Mama bear about how to go to the big potty and how “Salem” would soon learn to wear panties instead of diapers. We were both so excited to read it.
You see, I was one of those Laid Back Moms who didn’t care about potty training. A wise mother of five children assured me that none of her kids went to kindergarten in diapers and that all kids master the potty in time. She said I could alleviate a lot of stress on both of us if I didn’t pressure my little girl to hit some magic timeline. This sounded golden to me so Salem was three and still in diapers for “number twos.” She’s good, I’m good.
The book was to keep the conversation moving. We loved the fact that it had peel-n-place stickers to go on each page. There were little boxes and outlines for me/her to place the stickers. So I precisely placed the stickers in several boxes. She was delighted and soon Salem wanted her turn to place the stickers.
Uhm, that would be a No.
In my kindest voice I explained that “books are our friends” and we wanted the book to last and to be lovely, so “let Mommy do it for you, okay?”
Yeah, that didn’t work.
So with her happy, but clumsy, little hands, she placed the sticker in the box. Despite my careful instructions, it was crooked. She looked up at me with a gloriously, victorious face immensely pleased by her efforts.
I looked at the sticker and winced. And then, in slow motion, I watched all that glorious victory fade from her face as she registered my disappointment.
That was the beginning of the end of my need for perfection.
For the record, we put the rest of the stickers in the books, some straight, some crooked. Salem may or not even remember that moment. But I will never forget it.
God uses it often to remind me of what’s really important. Being with my child, enjoying her. I can choose to celebrate and learn with her, or I can miss her entirely while I try to keep up some standard of perfection. This theme has continued to be refined throughout my life as a mom.
Whether it is their rooms, or how the house looks when when we have company, or their grades, or their clothes, I need to take a deep breath and assess. What ‘s most important in this moment? Our relationship or the thing.
The endless pursuit of getting it “just right” doesn’t lead to connection. I want their hearts more than I want their performance. We love giving our best, for sure. But we are learning that “perfection” is a big, fat lie.
Every time I see that book, I wince. But I learned the lessons, over time.
Love people more than things.
Love the process more than the outcome.
Love the moment, enjoy the child.