Let’s Have a Ball

Meet season is finally over. We sprung forward this weekend, and on Sunday we enjoyed a 70 degree day with the sun staying up until almost 7. We played a game of baseball in the front yard, in which my 11 year old decided it would be fun to peg us with the ball as we ran to the (very far away) first base. This resulted in a lot of screaming and crying from the 7 and 5 year old, a few meltdowns, stern talks, and even a threat of no-dessert. Aww—the joys of parenting.

In case you noticed, I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort of blogging and scheduling my blogs. I generally try to write on Mondays, but I was a little late this week. Monday is my top day, because I post it to a discussion on a writers’ group I belong to. I enjoy reading others blogs, especially budding authors and people who I wouldn’t know or even have heard of without the group.

I’m trying to be more deliberate in my life. As you know, because I’ve blogged about it before, I have a problem with procrastination. I tend to be of the camp that if it’s due tomorrow start it at midnight the day before. I sometimes feel overwhelmed because of this, and I’m trying to stop this behavior or at least adjust it a little bit. It’s hard, and I’m not sure I’ll ever achieve this goal in my life. I’m stuck in my ways and have been stubborn for far too long.

This weekend, my son had to attend a Spring Ball. He was not happy about it. In fact, I was ruining his life. But I spoke to him, again, in the fashion of life lessons, of having to do things you don’t want to do. For a parent this is an everyday lesson, but it also led me to reflect on my own life.

You see, Caden, gets a lot of his tenacity from me. I’ve always been a mule when it comes to doing something I don’t want to do: school work, cleaning, cooking. I have a knack for passing these things on to other people. I simply refuse to do these tasks if I don’t feel like doing them. To.this.day! But I often feel guilt associated with that refusal to do tasks that are expected to me (I wouldn’t be a true Southerner without the guilt, right?) And I’m sure Caden has learned his behavior from me. On the way to the Junior Cotillion Spring Ball yesterday, he said, “Why don’t I have a choice? Why are you making me do something against my will?” Oh, lovely tween years. I can’t wait for the full blown TEEN years. But in that moment, when he asked that, I felt bad. I felt bad I signed him up and didn’t ask him. I felt bad, because he’s asserting his independence. I felt bad, because I remembered how I felt when I was forced to do things I did not want to as a child. Powerless. And no one likes to feel powerless.

Dance 1

But it was just one day. Just one dance. And I knew he’d survive. I knew, from the experience of the last dance, that he’d even enjoy it. It’s a good lesson to learn. Sometimes, quite a lot of times actually, as adults we are forced to do things we’d rather not do. And somehow we learn to stop complaining and just get it done, and sometimes we find some fun in it. Even my son learned how to do that at the Ball I made him go to. Smile just a little bit. Have a good time, and realize the sun will still be up when you get home and they’ll be plenty of time to play outside, at least for this brief moment of his life where he still wants to.

Dance 2

The Flaw of Perfectionism

This weekend, I sat on the bench and watched my son compete in a gymnastics meet in Roswell, GA. He’s been in gymnastics for years, and he’s good. He’s generally a hard worker. But he missed about five months last year due to a dislocated shoulder, and he still holds himself to the standards of the boys who are in their second year as level 5s.

He did well at the meet. He messed up on the floor, and that was his first event, so I think that led him down a dark wormhole in his mind. But after rings, he started crying. He was so upset. He scored a 10.1 on rings (not bad by any means), but he felt like he should have been scored higher. And he hyper-focused on it, getting more and more upset. At one point, he even walked off the floor. I tried to calm him down, but he wanted to be by himself. By the time he made it to his last event, high bars, he’d calmed himself down and he managed to pull an 11.2, first place for the event.

 

Watching him struggle was hard for me, and I recognized myself in him. How many of us quit when it gets tough? How many of us quit when we feel like our best is not our best? I sat and watch my son beat himself up, because his rings weren’t perfect and that’s hard for a parent to see. Mainly, because he inherited this trait from me and probably from the way we parent.

I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on perfectionism, because having struggled with it I know it can be debilitating. The thing about perfectionism is that it doesn’t spur you on to bigger and better things, it actually holds you back from being all you can be. It takes all the positives of a motivated individual and turns them into negatives and all the what if’s pop up: what if I fail? what if I don’t win? what if? what if? until the what ifs make the person stop doing what they love. The “what ifs” seem to become the driving factor in making the perfectionist feel trapped by their own perceived lack of achievement.

I haven’t been writing lately, and I know this is from self-doubt and perfectionism cropping into my mind. I haven’t been putting the time in, because I still don’t know if I’m good enough. But doing what I love should be good enough for me. I tried to emphasize this to my oldest son over the weekend. “You love gymnastics, right? Then keep working hard, and don’t get so bent out of shape over one meet.” This is a hard lesson to learn, and it’s a hard lesson for me to teach. I’m sure he’s seen me give up when things get tough, or when I don’t think the writing is just right, or when life gets too overwhelming

So how do we overcome perfectionism?

We need to teach our children that good enough is good enough. Winning isn’t everything. Hard work matters, but it’s okay to fail. In fact, learning how to cope with failure leads us to success later on and gives us the tools to know how to succeed.  We need to stop being afraid to let our children fail.

Celebrate victories. When my son didn’t do as well as he wanted in the meet, he said that the first place on high bar didn’t even matter. I told him he was nuts. He had scored 1st out of 61 kids. That was something! I told him not to focus on the negative, but to look at the overall picture, to learn what he could work on for the next week, and to look at the fact that he tried hard and did well.  I pointed out that he came in 5th overall in his age group (top 20 out of the 6o kids), and that last time we’d done this meet he had come in 9th. I showed him his progress. We celebrated his victory with a trip to Starbucks, and as the day went on he became excited about winning his gold on high bar and the feelings about the rings began to dissipate.

Love and respect yourself. Perfectionist tend to be mean to themselves. Self-blame. Self-critical. They’re often meaner to themselves than anyone else in their life. This leads to depression. Love yourself and all your flaws, and learn how to let go of the need for perfection.

Don’t give up. Persistence pays off. As a writer, this is something I’ve had to learn. Giving up gets you nowhere. Learn how to roll with the punches without assigning blame to yourself or making yourself feel guilty for failures, work hard, and keep at it.

Perfectionism is something I’ll have to work on controlling for the rest of my life. I’ll fight the feelings that come with it, and it seems like my son will too. But I know with mindfulness, I can let go and learn how to be happy with my best.


 

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