Insight and perspective arrive in sometimes unexpected ways, I believe, especially after yesterday. That morning, at 5 am, I walked into the airport to take a stupidly early flight out for work. It was on an airline I never fly but the flight schedule worked best for me this time around. The app didn’t work so I had to go to the ticket counter. Long story short, the seat assignment I paid for the night before was resold out from under me. At the gate, I realized what happened when the gate agent assigned me a seat at the back of the plane instead of the one I paid for at the front. I was there so long while these agents, who I swear hate their jobs, muddled through never figuring out how it happened, that I was last on the plane. So there was no room for the carry on I paid for. After walking from the back of the plane to the front to get my bag checked, I walked all the way back past rows upon rows of people who probably all were wondering why I couldn’t get my act together.
Sitting there, tired having been up since 4 am, frustrated, hoping my bag actually made it to my destination, I took some deep breaths. Then the flight attendants came through and I discovered they wanted to charge me for coffee. Coffee?? More deep breaths. I hated this airline.
In reality, these were just small inconveniences that piled ontop of eachother that particular day. They wouldn’t matter in just a few hours, not really. Actually, they quit mattering the second I stepped off the plane.
So as I sat there, frustrated and discontent, without wi-fi to answer emails and distract my thoughts, I realized it was high time I just embraced imbalance and imperfection of not only this day but this life. No matter how hard you try and how much you plan and prepare, things happen. Plans fall through, change will occur beyond your control. Sometimes people behave in ways you don’t understand. Such is life. You can cry in frustration, get that pit in your stomach, or take a breath, put it in perspective and get on with it.
It has taken me decades as a person and half a decade as a parent to accept, truly, that I will never achieve balance or perfection in any way, not even close. I will never be the perfect mother, perfect wife, friend, sister, or daughter. Some days, I feel like I am not even a good one, much less a perfect one. I will always work hard. I will always try, but right now I decided to try to stop beating myself up for not being some version of myself that I feel like I “should” be. I can try and prepare and plan, but when things go off the rails, I’ve got to get over it and move on. I am not saying this in some enlightened, elevated ‘mom’ way. It’s just my own admission of a truth that is a long time in coming.
I think this need to be perfect can bleed into who I am as a mother too, having these ridiculous expectations of myself. I wanted my daughter to be prepared for kindergarten in the best possible way. I put her in the best pre-K program I could find that I felt worked for her strong personality. Then and now, I try to spend as much time with her as I can. We talk, we play, we read together. Yet, when she got to school, it wasn’t easy for her. While in some ways she is adjusting well, there are some things she’s having a hard time with. I feel like somehow after all that, I failed her and that maybe if I had done more of this or that she wouldn’t feel frustrated or discouraged at times. Why couldn’t I have made everything perfect for her.
It’s totally unrealistic. My rational mind knows that. My heart has a hard time with it when I hear her say she doesn’t feel as smart as the other kids. Now, she is smart, but for the first time, she is also challenged and she is having to learn how to handle it when things aren’t so easy. I don’t dismiss or diminish how she feels, but I want her to see that you can work hard when you are challenged, keep trying and do your best. When something is challenging, it’s not impossible. It just means you have to work more when maybe before you could cruise. Even then, your best may not be the best in the class but as long as you don’t give up, that’s what matters more. I don’t want her to be like me in that way, always feeling you aren’t measuring up because someone, anyone, did better than you did.
The analogy, as a runner, I like to use with her when she gets frustrated is that I have run dozens of races but I’ve never won a single one. However, I have finished every race I ever started. Sometimes, many times, it matters more that you do your best and don’t quit, even if you aren’t in first place. When you give up, you’ll never get better. At least if you keep trying, there’s a chance you’ll improve, probably a really good one.
The tricky part about it, as a parent, is encouraging your child to aim high, not settle, but also not feel like they are worth less as a person if they don’t have the straight As or know all the answers. Keep trying and shoot for the stars, but also love who you are, as you are, whether you are among the stars or not. That’s my hope for my daughter.
Imbalance, imperfection are all part of life. We are flawed and amazing all at once. Embracing that and remembering to enjoy the gifts instead of focusing on the gaps is my challenge in general and as a parent, but I will keep trying. It will not be easy and change on a dime, but hey, I’ve got to try.