Love and Trying
There’s no tactic that ensures a child will match a parent’s fantasy. There’s only love and trying, over and over—until the child knows they are loved, and the parent knows the child is a unique, wholly separate person. Give up notions of perfection.
I’m not a perfectionist. I mean, my house was two parts loose shoes down the hallway and one part missing math books while I raised my five kids.
I explained this passionately to my therapist who had just accused me of “perfectionism.”
I even pulled out my phone and showed him photographic evidence of the chaos that proved I was a relaxed, mess-loving mom who indulged her kids’ flights of creativity despite the empty pretzel bags.
He paused and looked at me: “Julie, you’re a perfectionist in your relationships.”
[A moment of silence as that shocking fact sinks in.]
A perfectionist in my relationships.
That meant I wasn’t ever okay if my people were unhappy or moody or tired or angry. My out of order relationship felt to me like a cluttered counter to a tidy mother. I got busy organizing feelings, responding with hugs, thinking about how to be a better mother to this child right now.
I had this unrealistic (invisible) belief that I could achieve a relationship utopia—a mutually affirming, kind, harmonious day-to-day peace—forever—with all the people I love—never uttering the stray, wrong word.
Turns out: exhausting and impossible. Each day is fresh, each experience is original. A responsive parent is one who can handle the clutter of sadness or frustration, who isn’t undone by a moment where the connection to a child falters. It’s like getting comfortable with the messy art table. Relationships are messy.
All we really have IS love and trying.
Loving the person, the messy feelings and home, trying to be aware enough to grow and recover when we forget. That’s it.
And it turns out? It’s enough.
This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!