(A post by Amy)
I’m Type A. Really, super, duper, Type A. Josh says “Everything has a place and everything in its place.” But I take it to another level. Everything has a place, everything in its place, with a label made with my label maker, all the containers are the same size and they are arranged by color. That’s a brief glimpse into my Type A brain.
You know what’s hard? Being Type A with 5 kids, scratch that, being Type A with any kids. They are constantly putting stuff away (in the wrong place I might add) and pulling stuff out (and leaving it out).
And then they get LEGOs. Not just any LEGOs, LEGO SETS. Police stations, fire stations, race cars, ice cream shop, Cinderella’s castles, Batman boat, Spiderman helicopter, Shop-Kins Legos, and on and on and on.
So we follow the instructions; we build. And TEN MINUTES LATER they tear it apart! GRRR. And of course they don’t keep the box or even know where the same pieces are. They leave, go outside even, and walk away from the minefield of little LEGO pieces all over the basement floor.
Only then it rains. They’re done with outside and want the castle built back. There’s a problem. The castle is in the sea of mixed up LEGOs. Is that a crown or a wheel? Is that Batman’s cape or Elsa’s? And I got sick of it.
So like any self-respecting Type A parent would do, I went out and bought all the Tupperware / Rubbermaid I could find and organized all the LEGOs by individual piece types. Squares here, people heads there, and on and on and on.
Josh comes in and says “Amy, put away the Tupperware and stop being perfect. It’s doesn’t have to be. Let them build ramps with cars with wings. What if it’s a batman helicopter and a Spiderman boat? What if the race cars were ice cream cars or what if they don’t build ANY of it?”
I didn’t want to admit it but he is right. I struggle with wanting to be perfect. And I always have. I wanted the LEGOs to look organized because that would project that I’m organized and I’m not. I wanted the kids to play with the pre-assembled LEGOs because that was easy and creatively building something took more of my brain and I don’t like it. It wasn’t perfect. But to them it was. To them building the 4 story flying bunk bed banana house is perfect. So I started thinking.
I thought about my childhood
When I was a child, we had A LOT of toys. I mean A LOT. We had all the Playmobil toys from my two older brother’s childhood (and as a side note that stuff kept really well. Seriously, my mom has toys that my brother played with in the 1970s still!). Back to my childhood. I would play with the castle or the ranch or the pirate ship with the cannon. But they were only that, the ranchers didn’t play with on the pirate ship. The cannon balls weren’t pretend cows, and the kings couldn’t ride horses on the ranch.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but imaginary play and especially playing across toy lines wasn’t appropriate.
Another example. I had MANY Dolls growing up. MANY. REALLY. Some of my dolls were Cabbage Patch. If you didn’t know Cabbage Patch dolls come with a birth certificate that states their name. Only their names weren’t fun. I wanted to name my Cabbage Patch doll “Dolly” only her name was “Regina Marsha”. Seriously, who names these things!? REGINA!? Marsha?? Come on!
Anyway, all the way home from receiving the gift on a LONG LONG car-ride, my mom had me repeat the ENTIRE name of the doll over and over and over again. REGINA MARSHA that’s who she was, and that was that.
This might not seem that significant but parents take note (and I AM talking to myself and Josh as well) “constant criticism in the eyes of a child begins to wear them out and down.” That wearing out begins to create unrealistic expectations and unrealistic expectations require perfection. Even when perfection is not possible.
I thought about when Josh and I were getting married
Growing up I had seriously warped body image issues. I laugh now thinking back on them but growing up it was serious. I don’t know if it was from years of training in ballet classes or unintentional comments here and there. But I was messed up. I thought about my arms, the desirable “thigh gap”, the extra pooch on my lower abdominal (hilarious now, especially after 3 kids in 3 years AND an Umbilical hernia repair).
Anyway, Josh and I were on the road to getting married and I was panicked on how I would look in my wedding dress. So like any other bride, I dieted way down, subsisting on too little food and too much exercise. Josh was REALLY excited because he thought I LOVED the gym. HA! Fooled him! But friends, here’s where that landed me, sick. As. A. DOG. My entire honeymoon. Literally I spent the whole time we were on our honeymoon with Laryngitis sprinkled with bronchitis and a little touch of pneumonia. I had run my body down so much that I couldn’t enjoy Mexico with my new hubby. The pursuit of perfection was NOT worth it.
I thought about 2 years into our marriage.
All I wanted to do was to be the best mommy. I knew Josh could be a great daddy. Only it wasn’t happening. Like FOREVER. If you all have followed our story for any period of time, you know it took us FOREVER to get pregnant with Madeline (including a birth mother for adoption rescinding her consent). I spent the majority of 2.5 years fighting feelings of worthlessness. I wasn’t giving Josh what he wanted. I couldn’t get pregnant. A mom who wanted to give her child up for adoption didn’t even what me to be a mom. I wasn’t perfect and I knew it. And it almost ruined our marriage. But GOD…
I thought about when Madeline was born
I was the mom! And if you’re a mom, you know…Mom’s just know their kids. I knew the cry for food vs the sound of spit up. I knew gas bubbles and a full diaper. And you know who didn’t…Josh. He was (and is) a GREAT dad. He’s the fun one and played and LOVED Madeline when we were starting out on this adventure of parenting. But he would hear something, offer his suggestions and I WOULD LISTEN TO HIM! I would question it in my head. “She just ate, no she isn’t hungry, it’s probably gas but I am sure he knows better”. I would go in and feed her, she would spit up all over me, herself, her sheets and be up all night. I wasn’t even sure enough of myself as a mother to trust the “motherly instinct.” I would get frustrated at Josh and then spend the majority of the time being upset at me! I was too concerned with being perfect that I wasn’t even sure enough of my own motherhood.
I thought about Belize
That’s how we got started here on the trip to Belize. I thought about how I wasn’t quite Belizean and I wasn’t quite American. American’s wanted to talk about how wonderful life was; I wanted to talk about how I miss Oreos and Chick-fil-a. Belizean’s wanted to talk about how wonderful it was that I was there; I wanted to talk about how they get ants off their laundry. And so it was for about 2 of our 3 years there. I was tasked with being the perfect missionary wife, not complaining, not whining, not missing home. I was tasked with being the perfect missionary (not complaining about the lack of food choices, clothes choice, bugs in cereal pasta or my birthday cake. This pursuit of perfection was the strangest and strongest I had felt yet and it almost crushed me.
I thought about coming back to the United States
And I was all upside down. I walked into Target and turned around and walked out. I’m a mom of small children. This was my mecca, my nirvana, my Holy Land and I was paralyzed to react or go in. I get to the grocery store and I am so overwhelmed by the produce section that I cry, literally tears down my face. Time goes on and I am able to grocery shop but I still can’t bring myself to American Consumerism. I find myself crushed by the weight of expectations….does my house need to look like a Pottery Barn catalog? What will my friends in Belize think about me if I buy a new shirt? Or a decorative rug or even a towel? Are scented candles necessary? I like my house to smell nice but is that wasteful?
Perfection is not attainable it’s not possible and I wanted it so badly. Why can’t I be perfectly American? I’m back here! Shouldn’t I be American? Why do I have to be different? I didn’t fit in Belize and I don’t fit in now. How can I do this?
I thought about this struggle as the weather started to cool and the leaves start to fall.
My favorite season is here! I’ve gotten a couple of pumpkin spice lattes and it’s starting to turn a shade of orange in my house. I ALWAYS want MORE decorations with FALL and of course Christmas being my top two vices. Being frugal and lived overseas in missions, this struggle is real and intense. It all boils down to frugality and need vs want.
Anyway I start scouring my house looking for something, anything that I can make “fall-ish”. I make it through all the kids’ stuff and land on their blocks downstairs. These 18-inch scrap pieces of 2 x 4 boards are PERFECT. Giddy I pull out Pintrest and start frantically looking for anything I can do. The best I find is a painted “rectangle pumpkin.” I’m intrigued and I have to have it. Surely they have a pattern I can print and follow, remember it HAS TO BE PERFECT!
One problem. Nothing. They don’t have anything. No pattern. How will I paint these? I’m pacing at this point, trying to figure out what to do. Can I blow this image up trace it on wax paper, etc. As I am walking back and forth, as intense shooting pain shoots through my heel. I’m stopped. I look down and it’s a LEGO. Frustrated at the lack of cleanliness I go into the boy’s room to put it up and I see the LEGO creations. I’m immediately reminded of my pursuit of perfection.
My hand goes to my head and I feel my messy bun which is way messier than it is bun. It’s definitely NOT perfect and I laugh, a HUGE belly laugh.
I feel the extra jiggle in my belly and am reminded about all the stretch marks (3 kids in 3 years does a number on ya). It’s not perfect and I start to laugh.
I look around at the room, think about our life, and as if a burden was being lifted off of me from the Lord I was free. No more pursuit of perfection because I am pursuing HIM and I am perfect in HIS eyes because of Jesus.
I got my paints and free-handed those pumpkins. AND I think they look GREAT.
Why share all of this? Here’s why. I was paralyzed for a lot of my life with this constant pursuit of perfection, stifling of creativity, etc. I was more than paralyzed; at times it felt as if I was buried. At the moment of freedom, it was as if I was breathing fresh crisp fall air for the first time. It was as if I was honestly tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. The pursuit of perfection LEFET and Joy entered. I share because it’s changed my thoughts, my pursuits and my parenting. I share because I pray you experience that same freedom.
Stop pursuing perfection that’s you will not reach. Choose joy instead. It’d be a whole lot cooler if you did!