Are you passing perfection pressure on to your kids?

My son is soulful, compassionate and a deep processor who takes most things very seriously. He's also relentlessly silly, streaking through the house naked or doing a ridiculous dance just to make us laugh. He rarely gets in trouble, and when he does, it surprises us both. 

I know him really well. And I cherish that because the time is coming closer that he will have friends I don't know, go more places without me, see the mountains and swim in seas before he even tells me he has hit the road. That is a good thing. Even when he's independent, I hope that lovely epicenter that beats his heart and extends his arms into a hug and inspires curiosity about the history of India's sports and makes reading and drawing and belting out songs into a microphone – I hope it will still be there.

At that core of him, though, is also a rooted and relentless pressure to be perfect. I recognize it in his scrunched-up face when he can't swiftly solve an algebra problem or when I correct the way he's cleaning the bathroom mirror or when he's made a mistake and he knows it. When I see that look, we talk about it. Release, I tell him. You are enough. 

you are enough print.jpg

He sometimes cries or resists. He occasionally asks how or rants that I am the one who expects him to be perfect. No, I say, do your best. And learn from the lessons.  

It's not easy. I want him to do well, but I don't ever want the drive to succeed to become a debilitating stress. I love that he gets straight As and that that he worked and worked and worked to earn a black belt, through pain and discipline and many more months and tries than he anticipated. I don't expect it, and I do want him to pursue it – and also enjoy it. 

That pressure to be perfect doesn't come with a lot of moment savoring. Because there's always more, always better, always the encumbrance of doing. What if perfection is a quiet, still moment of reflecting on all you are as a beautiful human?, I've asked. He's nodded but I am not sure he's really understood so much that his thinking has shifted or the weight has lifted.

And so I asked myself the same question, only to feel the same reactive nod. How often do I enjoy all of my own enough-ness? The answer is, of course, not enough. I recognize the look of perfection pressure paints on his face because I've seen it in my own mirror. Why am I not doing more? Why am I failing? – I have felt these questions swirling in my head in some form or another for decades. They are questions and thoughts I'd never have about another beautiful human, but I generously berate myself with, no matter how many accomplishments of my own I rack up or how much I've worked to make myself kinder, calmer, smarter, more confident. 

Being a single mom has only added to the pressure of perfection for me. I created a terrible need to show others that one parent and a child can make a fulfilled family, that I could wield power tools adeptly and figure out how to free my toddler after he locked himself in the bathroom. I heard so much criticism about the whys and hows of my divorce that I pushed myself hard to make more friends, find a better relationship, discover greater strength in myself. And while those are not bad motivations, they can be if the ideal does not include any missteps at all. 

I didn't want to pass this on to my son. But here it is, and we have it in common. Just like we have a tendency to pile up our clean clothes on the floor instead of putting them away (we do not have tidiness perfection, clearly), share a disdain for mayonnaise and tear up together during America's Got Talent. 

I suppose that as I am leading him to release, embrace and enjoy all of his enoughness, I am guiding myself there, too. One scrunched-up face moment, one A-, one job loss, one accidental fender bender, one locksmith call, one ended marriage, one meditation, one deep-breathed release at a time.  Hell, for that price, you can wrap your kid's textbooks and wallpaper your office in it.


The top print is available for purchase on Etsy, where you can download it or three little dollars. Hell, for that price, you can wrap your kid's textbooks and wallpaper your office in it.

The "enough" print is also available for purchase and download on Etsy. For $5.80, you can certainly gift them to every single mom and kid of a single mom you love, right?

* Not an ad, simply a big praise-hands for independent sellers on Etsy. *