I am one of those people who is often crippled by perfectionism. I can’t start a project for fear of never finishing it, or worse: it not turning out exactly how I want. (Take, for example, this blog: if you had any idea how many entries I wrote and then deleted during my pregnancy…) I get set on one course, and if unforeseen circumstances set in and nudge me even slightly in one direction or another, I often struggle to accept the change. Sounds charming, right? Really fun to be around. Super easy to get along with. It has been a strength (like twice), but the rest of the time it is just a huge bummer that I am trying to get over.
Being a perfectionist is a tricky position to be in for a parent. I wonder what my expectations for Finn are and will become. I imagine that I will struggle to prevent pushing unrealistic expectations on him when I can’t help but push them on myself. Finn, only five short months into life, is perfectly sweet, curious and charming, sometimes tearful and whiny, but he has never done wrong. He has never not done exactly what he should. And yet–I am embarrassed to admit–that I feel a little tinge of disappointment when he doesn’t progress as quickly as so-and-so’s baby or when he hasn’t hit the milestone I read about on this or that website. A little sadness creeps in and I wonder–was it him or me?
The answer is, of course, neither. And I hate myself for even entertaining the question. Finn is Finn and he must run at his own pace. He will scoot around when he is ready; he will sleep through the night when he is able; he will learn his name whenever his brain is ready to click into that gear. Over the past few weeks, I have been reminding myself of this repeatedly, so as to disregard completely any expectations that I might have formed and just enjoy my son for who he is.
This frame of mind is based on my want for Finn to be the best at as much as possible. To shine brighter than others. For example: I have actually somehow created a superiority complex over Finn’s size. He is bigger than a lot of babies his age, and I find great pride in knowing this and in having others comment on it. This, however, is no success of mine or of Finn’s; he just happens to be that way. At his last doctor’s appointment, I learned that he is slowing down his rapid growth and leveling out to a more average size. Upon receiving this news, that feeling of disappointment tiptoed into my mind. It was quiet, but it was there and I knew it immediately. I wrestle with these thoughts because I’m soberly afraid of how they will impact Finn in the future.
So why do I want Finn to be the best?
I wonder if being able to claim best at this or that is important in any way to human flourishing or if we’re all aiming for something that hurts others in the process. I wonder if it is possible to break this mindset and what living that way would look like. I wonder if I will be able to snap out of it quickly enough to be able to impress upon my children that being the best isn’t best. It isn’t most important. I so want to teach my children to be able to appreciate the gifts and strengths of others and the gifts and strengths of their own and leave it at that. There is no room for comparison here. There can’t be.