I’ve had an explicit all-honesty-all-the-time policy at my house.
The Tooth Fairy rewarded my son’s honesty with full price for his sub par tooth, (can you believe it’s $5 these days?) Yup, Mom engineered that one, smugly creating a “teachable” moment where full disclosure is rewarded…albeit by a mythical tooth-stealing fairy.
My nickname is Hair Trigger. We all have them, triggers that can take us from zero to sixty in no time flat. Mine is dishonesty. Lie to me and there is no faster way to board a bullet train to Crazytown.
Acute vigilance manifested these past few months, as I maneuvered through a custody modification, 5 years after divorce. I’m not at liberty to share details, but…
As the days of summer slip away, I’ve got one last week with a very active 7 year old and no camp, no nanny, no help. Mano a mano. To limit screen time, and avoid constant wrestling and pillow fighting, I have tried, pleaded, begged, even bribed my way into teaching K the value of good old-fashioned chores. Listen kid, summer ain’t just about lounging in front of the tv, eating hot dogs and french fries all hours of the day, or gallivanting around Legoland twice in one week, yes, I said TWICE in one week- all of which we have done this summer. (I may have overachieved on the concept of “staycation”.) This last snippet of summer is about learning how to iron, cook, vacuum, do anything that might help your single mama out around the house. i.e. help her keep her sanity.
Today’s chore was to re-pot some of the succulents around the yard, and to my surprise, K loved this activity. The words, “This is fun, Mom!” actually escaped his sugar-encrusted mouth. IKEA pots, my home grown worm compost, a bag of aquarium gravel and succulent cuttings from our existing plants, were all it took to let our imaginations play. After a very rough summer in the co-parenting department, this simple connection with my son and some little plants lifted my spirits exponentially.
A couple pots next to the door add welcoming cheer to my porch.
He’s so excited to be learning piano. Just getting a tiny taste of it at school, when he realized that he could practice at home on our hand-me-down keyboard, he lit up and much to my delight kept on playing and playing and playing the little 60 second ditty he learned at school.
At dinner he looks up at me.
“Mommy, does practice make perfect?”.
I froze. “Uhhhhh, well son…,” I stammered. “Why would you want to be perfect? Sometimes practice is the reward in and of itself.” Seriously? I just dropped, “…in and of itself” on my six-year old?
I’ve spent my entire life trying to be perfect, reconciling not being perfect, letting go of, yet still striving for it… and I just would love to save him from this self-imposed trap. A standard of “perfection” is elusive, insidious and harmful, and only now as an adult do I realize the extent my obsession with it. As much as it has driven me, it’s also contributed to trauma as well. What if he didn’t have to go through that, and from this young age was able to accept and love himself unconditionally?
He looks at me quizzically, trying to process the adult gibberish that has just escaped his mother’s mouth. And then the light bulb goes off: “So perfect practice makes perfect?” He beams.
Yes, dear. Okay. Perfect practice makes perfect. Even better. YES, let’s instill the pressure to be perfect even in your piano PRACTICE. Parenting fail.
If I had a parental rewind button, for a do-over, like when you think of the most brilliant comeback 10 minutes AFTER you are bullied…I would have come up with something insightful, succinct and in my best Jedi-like Obi-Wan Kenobi voice, I’d say:
“Practice makes Progress my dear little Paduan.” And he would have smiled, absorbing this dewdrop of parental wisdom, fully grasping that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. He’ll understand how he can be kind to himself and allow himself the freedom to experiment and fail and find out what he really loves to do in this life. Party on, Jedi master Mommy. But I didn’t.
I got his bath ready and listened to him playing the piano tune over and over and over. Smiling that for now, in this moment, he believes in perfect, and that he can attain it.
It sounded like such a good idea at the time. My BFF had lost her father last year and we had planned to go on a yoga retreat to Mexico this spring when she finally had a little time for herself. Well, spring had sprung and our flight was just around the corner. That’s when the panic struck.
All the reasons why I shouldn’t go swirled in my head. What if something happened to my son? I haven’t worked enough this year to earn a vacation. This is way too indulgent. I like my life. I don’t feel tired. I don’t need an escape. What if I miss out on that one job that catapults my income for the entire year? On and on and on.
I tried to sit with the discomfort. Honor your commitment. Honor yourself. Try something new. Relax. It will all be fine. Maybe better than fine. And don’t forget….it’s already been paid for.
The BFF called me the day before we left. “How are you feeling about this trip?” she tentatively asked. I admitted to secretly hoping I would get a job which would give me total permission to come halfway through the retreat. She felt the same. We agreed that it felt like too long to be away from our kids. The mom guilt had got us. And bad.
We cut our trip short by two nights. A couple hundred dollars in change fees (ouch!) later, we left for Mexico.