I am type-A.
I love to be in control.
But when my three-and-a-half year old starting throwing around the word perfect, I cringed.
It all started with her socks. One morning when we were running late - but let's stop and be honest, we're always running late - I asked her to put on her socks and shoes. Something she does without issue everyday. But this particular morning, as I got E changed and ready, I heard her huffing and puffing in frustration... and then, she screamed and I heard a shoe fly across the room.
"What in the WORLD, Cameron Kate?!"
"My socks! They won't be PERFECT! They have to be PERFECT!!!"
"What do you mean, perfect?"
"You know, the line. It has to be right across my toes."
She was referring to the seam, and she couldn't quite get it lined up just so and it was sending her into fits of frustration.
The word perfect haunted me once again when the hem on one of her shorts had become slightly unraveled. She absolutely would not wear those shorts because "Mama, they're not PERFECT."
And then that word kept creeping into our days:
"Mommy, don't I look PERFECT?"
"Mommy, brush my hair, I want it to be PERFECT."
"Mommy, does this match PERFECTLY?"
And each time she'd say it, my heart sank a little.
It's tricky, raising kids. It's especially tricky, raising girls... raising girls who aren't fixated on their outward appearance or worried about what others think of them or obsessed with being cool or consumed by the desire to be perfect.
And here I am with a three-year-old... THREE YEARS OLD people... and she's already throwing this word around like it's controlling her world.
One day we finally sat down and discussed that particular p-word. About how nothing is ever perfect, no one is ever perfect, and I would never expect her to try to be perfect. About how I only want her to try her best, to not give up, to treat others and herself with love and kindness and forgiveness.
A conversation I never thought I'd have to have with my preschooler. But a conversation I know I'm going to continue having with her while I fight like heck to raise a daughter who believes in herself and who is more concerned about her heart and her mind than her hair or her body or her shoes.
But y'all, I also realize this may be a reflection of me. I see so much of myself in her while she tries endlessly to get her sock seams to line up just so. I know that this determination, this desire to do things the right way, this perfectionism will benefit her in life if it is channeled in the right way. But it is also incredibly dangerous, especially as a girl, as a young woman - heck, as a grown woman.
The other day I was enjoying one of my favorite hobbies - online shopping - and I stumbled upon the perfect sweatshirt for her. It came in the mail, and I excitedly opened up the package to show CK her surprise.
She loved it! BECAUSE IT WAS LONG-SLEEVED! Girl loves some long sleeves, but - wait for it - they absolutely have to "pull all the way down."
Anyway, she wore the sweatshirt all day long, declaring it her new favorite shirt because "Mama, you're letting me wear long sleeves in the summer!" At the end of the day I asked her if she wanted to know why I loved the sweatshirt so much. We talked about it and what it said, and I reminded her that I never wanted her to be perfect, that she never would be perfect. That I would always love her, no matter what, and that I would be more proud of her heart and her mind and the way she treats herself and others than I would ever be of how she looks.
We're trying hard to eliminate the p-word in our house. It's tough, and I catch all of us using it daily. I just want my kids to know that perfection is unattainable, and boring. Because if we were all perfect, without flaws, life would be pretty dull, ya know? My hope is to raise a daughter who loves herself, flaws and all, who approaches life with a smile and a kind heart, who puts others before herself, and who tries her best in all she does.
Now that? That would be perfect.