As I was looking for a devotional to share with our MOMS group at church this week, I was flipping through one of my favorite books on parenting by one of my favorite people EV-AH to walk the face of the earth, Fred Rogers. I came across this page and it struck a chord with me, and maybe it will for you, too!
"Society is asking so much of parents and caregivers in today's world: "Make sure your child is safe and healthy"; "Develop routines"; "Set Limits"; "Read to your child each night at bedtime"; "Help your child feel secure and loved." And all that is added to the other things we are already doing in our lives. Many adults feel that they are falling short in one, if not all, of the "assignments" of their lives. They often feel they are failures.
Well, people are not failures if they are doing the best they can. If parents are managing to cover most of the important bases most of the time, they have every reason to feel good about who they are and what they're doing. Our performance doesn't have to be measured against anyone else's- just against our own abilities to cope."
- Fred Rogers (from the book Many Ways to Say I Love You: Wisdom for Parents and Children from Mister Rogers)
Do you hear that, friends? MOST of the bases MOST of the time. Not all of the bases all of the time, or some of the bases all of the time, or all of the bases most of the time. . .just, you know, your personal best. Most of it. Most of the time. No absolutes. With some extra grace to fill in the gaps. If it comes from the man in the zipper sweater, I consider it to be absolute truth, so I need to take these words and put them in my heart.
You see, I have a disease. Maybe you have it, too. That disease is perfectionism. I used to think that perfectionism was a good trait. . .I like to do things right! ALL THE TIME!! What's wrong with that? Until I realized that there is a whole lot wrong with that. It's one thing to have high standards for yourself, and it is another to beat yourself up when you don't meet those high standards. It is one thing to like to do things right, it is completely another to not be able to enjoy or appreciate the things in your life because you feel like you failed to get them "just right".
Along with parenthood comes a complete relinquishing of control of many areas of your life, because you now have unique human beings in your home who are yours to love and teach and guide but have thoughts and wishes and desires all their own. They are going to be messy and imperfect, they are going to make your house messy and imperfect, and they are going to make it harder for you to live up to your own standards. They will cry all the way through the grocery store, pee on the floor, spill their milk, leave toys all over the yard, throw up the dinner you made, stay up past their bedtime, track sand and dirt and mud and bugs in your house in a constant stream, and cheerios and legos will make it into places in your home you didn't even think cheerios and legos could go. My first few years of parenting I spent in a constant battle with the mess and trying to clean it up, and a constant checklist of things to accomplish during the day, and I felt if I didn't accomplish them I had somehow failed my family. At the end of the day, I would try to scramble around and clean the entire house while my two year old and one year old were corralled in their room, and whip up a perfect dinner and make everything "just so" before my husband got home from work. And yeah, sometimes I pulled it off. But it didn't make me feel better, just tired. And guilty for ignoring my kids while I did it. And if my husband didn't notice my efforts, even worse. Because no matter how hard I worked, there would still be more laundry piles, more crumbs, more missing socks, more stray sippy cups under the furniture with rotting milk inside. I was not coping exceedingly well during my quest for perfection.
But slowly, over the past few years, I have started to learn to give myself more grace. For some reason, more kids did that, but I have no idea how. Also thanks to the man in the blue sneakers, who visits my kids ever day via the Roku, but really I think he might be talking to me. You are enough. You are special. People can like you just the way you are. I have learned that the voice in my head that tells me I have to be perfect or that I am falling short is not a loving voice, it is not the voice of God. . .and in the words of one of my other faves, the Church Lady from 90's SNL. . ."could it be SATAAAANNNN???" So, I have just been breathing deep and telling that voice that I am not going to listen to it. . .unless it is telling me something loving about my parenting, it's out. My kids don't need perfectly clean, they just need clean enough. One sock on the baby just might be OK. The Capri Sun instead of milk might just have to do. Maybe they wore that same Thomas the Tank engine underwear yesterday, and that's OK, too. Maybe we didn't quite get sunscreen on, so we just play in the shade. We want more time to visit with guests, so we eat off paper plates. We use the steam mop instead of scrubbing on our hands and knees, and wipe down the sink instead of scrubbing with a sponge. My biscuits come from a can and my meatballs from the freezer section at Meijer. Some days we might just watch the entire PBS kids morning lineup or go to bed without every single toy getting put in its place. Yeah, it happens.
I can only do the best I can, within my limits, and the rest will just have to be covered with grace. Because if I really want to love my kids, and have them believe that THEY are loved unconditionally, that starts with me loving ME and giving myself grace. And you know what, when I do this, I simply enjoy life more and have more to give to others!! It feels great to let the perfect go. I hope that if you are struggling with this, too, that I can offer some grace to you today! We're all in this together!