Practically Perfect In Every Way, Not That it Matters

I don’t know where she gets it… ahem… but Laylee’s showing herself to be quite the perfectionist. She is an uncompromising stickler for detail which causes high quality but low output, inconvenient if she plans to earn her keep down at the workhouse.

atomic-towerAlthough I love the fact that she can build an atomic bomb out of foam blocks if given a long enough “nap”, she gets easily frustrated and only makes half as many green paper aardvarks as the other kids in her preschool class. A few months ago, I noticed that she’d started measuring her responses to really simple questions to make sure she always gave the right answer.

Teacher: What does a horse say?
Laylee [looking around at the other kids silently]
Classmate: NEIGH!!!!
Laylee [chiming in when she sees he’s getting a positive response from the teacher]: NEIGH!

She’s always been a smart kid, ahead in a lot of ways. It just made me sad to see her questioning herself and feeling so much pressure to be perfect. When we went in for her 4-year checkup, Doctor Holmes asked if I had any other questions.

We whispered back and forth as the kids created a blizzard with the tiny bits of paper they had ripped off the roll on the table. He gave me two pieces of advice that have really made a huge difference in Laylee’s confidence.

#1. Let myself make mistakes in front of her. Call her attention to them and then fix them, shrug them off and move on unfazed.

What I had been doing was mentioning when she made a mistake and telling her that it was no big deal and not to stress out about it. Holmes told me that what I was doing was just reinforcing that she had made a mistake and further ingraining her little failures into her psyche. I, the perfect adult, noticed that she, the pitiful insignificant child, had spilled her potatoes on the floor… oh… and in my beneficence I told her that it wasn’t a big deal… and not to freak out about it because freaking out is so freaking annoying.

Letting her see me drop my potatoes on the floor and say, “Woops! I had a little accident. No big deal. I’d better clean those up. So what story do you want to read?” teaches her by example that it’s okay.

#2. Sing songs that she knows well and substitute strange words.Dancing Queen, young and green, only 2 years old.” This causes intense fits of laughter and the yelling of “NOOOOO!!!!” Then she tells me the real words and eventually starts singing songs creatively too. She is learning that mixing things up can be fun, that it’s okay to let loose every once in a while and that her mom has a really warped sense of humor.

She sang a strange song to me just today, spilled water all over my nicest piece of free furniture and wiped it up like it was just water spilled on a sofa table. So we’re making great progress.

There is no sweeter girl on the face of the planet and I want her to know that just by being who she is, she’s already perfect.


the reasons: fists full of dandelions, bleenkits, tulips, whispered “I love you”s

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24 Responses to Practically Perfect In Every Way, Not That it Matters

  1. Nantiemeg says:

    she is practically perfect. I am so proud of her and the girl that she is and I am so proud of you for being the fantastic mom I’ve seen you become!! Love you love you!

  2. Sarah says:

    those are good tips. I have somewhat of a perfectionist too.

  3. Lei says:

    That was fabulous advice. But reading your post made me think perhaps we let loose a little TOO much around here. Because my toddler purposely throws potatoes on the floor. Lol!

  4. allysha says:

    you’re a good mom.

  5. Farm Wife says:

    Not a perfectionist in this bunch…I do think you’ve got a good handle on it with Laylee. Good luck to you!

  6. Barb says:

    I had to educate myself the same way when my oldest was preschool age. What I’ve ended up with is a child who is a perfectionist, but knows that her mom makes mistakes and her mom is O.K. with mistakes that her children make. I didn’t quite manage to squelch the perfectionist thing, though.

  7. Andrea says:

    What great advice. Love the post. Thanks

  8. Traci says:

    Such terrific advice. We have the perfectionist thing at our house, too, and boy, can it eat at confidence and enjoyment like nothing else!

    And SHE is adorably perfect. Way to go, Mom.

  9. Jeana says:

    Oh my word! Have you read my post today? Because this furthers my convictions that 1) Warped I MEAN great minds think alike and 2) You should totally ship Laylee out here for a week or two. Completely disregarding the fact that we have never met, you know, because Hey! We sing songs with weird lyrics! So that makes it okay!

  10. heather says:

    I like the bit about making mistakes in front of your kids…I’ll have to give that a shot!

    I LOVE when the nut makes up songs. Last week he invented a “band aid” song to sing to his sister!!

  11. chilihead says:

    Wish I’d had that advice about 9 years ago…Wonder if it’s too late?

  12. Big Mama says:

    Well, I definitely make plenty of mistakes that I can start pointing out. No problem there, whatsoever.

    As a fellow mama of a perfectionist, I appreciate the advice.

  13. Mir says:

    Lucky Laylee to have a Mama who loves her so much. 🙂 Great tips, too… I need to try those with my own little perfectionist.

  14. bon says:

    yeah… maybe I should start making mistakes in front of them… on purpose and stuff. ‘Cause, ummm… I for sure don’t ever trip and explode entire gallons of milk in front of my kids!

  15. HolyMama! says:

    your mothering ROCKS. And I adore you for teaching the lova of all things abba.

    and? she’s gorgeousness.

  16. Kimberly says:

    Wow….how does it feel to write something that can change the lives of the women around you? That was, apart from funny and beautifully written as usual, incredibly insightful. I’ve got a little girl teetering on the edge of her confidence level…thanks for pointing out what it will take to pull her back. You’re awesome.

  17. So funny, because I’d been mulling over a post on a similar subject. My firstborn is a perfectionist; when he was about three, he freaked out over spilled food so much we actually used to MAKE him spill food just to “de-sensitize” him and teach him to laugh it off.

    That’s great advice.

  18. Where was that dr. when MY kids were growing up!?!? Wise advice, and good to follow…

  19. sarah k. says:

    She is soooo beautiful! And quality is better than quantity. We do the song thing too. I do it when I read to them, too, and they laugh their little heads off correcting me. Sometimes Cal requests certain substitutions, or that I read the “wrong” way.

  20. Eve says:

    Awww! Love love love this one! See, these are the things she’ll read when she’s a bratty teenager and see that you really do love her!

  21. Poppa2B says:

    My wife is a perfectionist and I’ve done o.k. getting her to lighten up a little on herself. I think once our baby is born I’ll have to watch to make sure it’s not hereditary. I don’t try to be perfect I just am… (as my nose hits the monitor)
    I’ll just stick with, “life’s messy, clean it up” whenever something hits the floor.

  22. Angela says:

    “spilled water all over my nicest piece of free furniture” LOL.

    This is a great post, I appreciate the insights—I am NOT a perfectionist and will probably keel over if I have a child who is one, but in your post, it is interesting to see the effects we have on our kids, unwittingly. You are a good mom, it is clear. That will be the greatest effect, I’m sure.

  23. Liz says:

    you are a great mom ~ I remember one time my mom lost it and shrieked “You will never eat a peanut butter sandwich again!!!!!” and then later apologized for that. She will probably die a thousand deaths if she sees this comment, but it stuck with me more that she apologized than that she took away my PB&J privileges for life.

  24. grammyelin says:

    Thanks, K. You are helping me see one of my life goals fulfilled. I wanted to be a really good Mom and then watch as my daughters turned into better better mothers than me. What you do matters and you’re doing it really well.

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