Parenting is a funny thing. You learn a lot about yourself, and the influences in your life. I realised something big today that I wanted to share.
I was hurrying to go for a bike ride with Alex, was in a rush, and was trying to help him get ready. He wanted to wear his riding gloves, and so I was trying to help him put them on. First try, there was no finger in the pointer finger, second try, there was no finger in the pinky. Third try, the pointer was missing again. Fourth try, the index finger was missing. "Oh for heavens sake!" I grumped. "Alex, what the heck are you doing? Are you even trying?". I saw his little face frown and his eyes take on a sad look, but was so caught up in what I was doing that I didn't take it in. I tried again. "Come on, mate, put your finger in there. It's easy! Come on. What are you doing?" he tried again, very tentatively. And yet again, no finger in the pointer finger. I felt so frustrated "come on, mate" I exclaimed, "Do it properly or don't even try". He dropped his bottom lip and looked like he might cry. Suddenly, I snapped out of the perfectionistic trance that I was in. What on earth was I doing to my little boy, and where had that come from?
I gave him a big hug. "Sorry for being such a cranky mummy. Mummy was being mean, wasn't she? Mummy was cross with the glove, not you". And suddenly, I remembered someone in my young life helping me with my homework, with different things, and wanting me to do it right first time, getting frustrated with me, and giving up on me, or taking my homework off me and doing it themself. This person is a perfectionist, no doubt because of their upbringing, and is much harder on themself than anyone else. But it made me realise how deeply those words, that sentiment had echoed in my little girl psyche. Because, dear reader, I chose to not even try, because I couldn't do it properly. The sentiment echoed through all aspects of my life - through my relationships with guys, through my friendships, through my jobs. All my life I did the bare minimum, only chosing things that I knew I was good at, that I had natural talent at, and avoiding anything that I couldn't do properly. It's probably something to do with my core personality too, being prone to self doubt and needing reassurance. Under those circumstances, someone with a stronger core would have thought "ok, I'll do it perfectly". But I chose underachieving...and unlike Bart Simpson, I was not proud of it. My life until around 2003 was one long shame spiral for the things that I knew I could probably do, but was too scared to try.
I'm so not criticising this person. I love them unconditionally. They worked so hard, and still work so hard, providing for their family. It wasn't unheard of them to do a 40 hour week in one job, to do a couple of shifts at another workplace, and take on other work on weekends. They wanted to give their family the best of everything because that's the way they show love. So no wonder they were tired and frustrated and unable to be patient in every situation. But I know one thing - I'm never going to tell Alex to do it properly or not at all. The fun is in the attempt, and the journey, not the destination.
And the great thing about this massive revelation? That I can change the pattern, because I'm aware of it. I knew I felt like this, but I wasn't sure where it had come from. Now I know. Knowledge is power, particularly self knowledge. You can't change yourself or your life if you refuse to see the unhealthy patterns and exchange them for healthy, loving ones. Admit, accept and change. Courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.