Love is Not Perfection

My mother never had a question that her children would be perfect! Yes! Really! She really told me that once.

She said it in answer to my question, “Where did your perfectionism come from? Was Grandma a perfectionist?” It didn’t seem like it to me, but then…

“She taught us the right way to do things, and when I learned there was a right way and a wrong way, I wanted to do them the right way. And I never even thought about my children doing anything other than that. I was just sure you would all be perfect and do things right.”

I was amazed. Because I could relate to wanting to be perfect and always do things right, but I wasn’t very old before I disagreed with her that her ways were right! In fact at nine years old I was sure her ways were not right.

I had mopped and waxed the kitchen while she was at work, and all she had asked me to do was the dishes. I was so excited I couldn’t wait for her to get home. I must have always been seeking praise or approval by then, because I was sure I would get it.

The rub came because I didn’t see any reason to dry dishes that would dry by themselves if you gave them a little time. That was a waste! (I guess I thought I needed to prove it. Why wouldn’t I have figured out I should put them away before she got there?)

You’ve probably guessed the rest of the story. She came home and asked me why I hadn’t finished the dishes. (It’s so what I did with my kids–it kills me! I always noticed what was wrong before I noticed what was right.)

I had to point out that I had done the floor, but I don’t remember if I did that right away; I was so deflated and so angry that I vowed never to do anything nice for her again. (That’s why I think I was an approval seeker–to get so crazy so fast, I must  have had some need I was trying to fill or some lie {false belief} I was trying to manage. “Not- good-enough” was a huge one of mine.) And if you think that reaction was over-the-top, you are right. However, I don’t find it is all that rare.

And the dark side loves vows we make in anger. That’s great software for them to play with, emphasize, make spin-offs of, and manipulate for their use. Also get other people to trigger! I just learned that this is called “soul play.”

Expecting perfection is a real relationship breaker, emotional crippler, and way to set up failure or over-achieving in your kids. I probably don’t need to say anything more, but you may need to look hard at yourself to know if you expect perfection from your kids. We have such blinders when it comes to ourselves. Ask your kids–kids are usually great responders and sources of truth if they aren’t afraid of you.

And then there is the opposite. You may have thought this blog doesn’t pertain to you at all because you are laid-back and non-demanding. But there are two other ways this affects your kids.

The mom or dad who demands perfection from themselves may let there kids get by without helping and try to do everything themselves. After all if you want something done right, do it yourself is a fairly common thought. Or it’s easier and quicker to do it myself than to fight with them, is another common parental pitfall. They need to learn basic life skills. They need to feel needed and important to the family. It’s important to their development and success.

Or perhaps you are the parent who didn’t learn to help at home. Didn’t learn how to make your bed, or keep your room neat, or pick up after yourself, or do your own laundry, and you are cool living in a mess. It doesn’t bother you and probably isn’t important to teach your kids. But has it caused stress to you or your relationships, or your spouse? Your children? And you don’t know it!

There is a happy medium, a middle of this road. Give your kids chores, but don’t fight with them or yell at them or abuse them over chores. You are the parent, the authority, you don’t need to yell or fight.  Just make reasonable consequences and follow through. No need to get emotional  and stressed, just enforce consequences, every time, before you get angry.

Structure, boundaries, skills and community are important things to learn and teach. Orderly life makes everyone feel better and function better. We see that in God. Families who are healthy enjoy each other’s company. They actually enjoy being together, and they build each other up. But it is definitely something that is taught and modeled.

Don’t expect perfection. You aren’t perfect, and they aren’t going to be either. Grace is more important. God doesn’t expect perfection. He knows there is no way we could ever meet his level of rightness. We don’t think like He (They) do. And there is no way we can, we are broken. But His covenant with us is to put His (Their) ways into our hearts so we want to think like Them. Someday They will heal our brokenness and then right will become natural to us.

I can’t wait! But until then. Love is not demanding or expecting perfection. But neither is it expecting nothing. As long as they are under your roof, you need to offer structure and education. It makes love and happiness easier.

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