By Elisabeth Quinn
It’s probably perfectly fitting that just before I sat down to write this article (on letting go of trying to be perfect) I was combing nits out of my kids’ hair. Not only combing nits, but everyone grumpy, shouting, screaming, while combing nits. The neighbours must have thought we were murdering each other. And honestly, how do you even get nits in the summer holidays?
Brené Brown describes perfectionism not as healthy striving to be better but as an attempt to insulate ourselves from the judgement of others. We think “If I am perfect then no-one will judge me, I can’t fail and I won’t ever feel shame”. But it doesn’t work. It just leaves us trying to live up to other people’s ideals, losing touch with our true selves and being worried about what other people think all the time.
As you can probably tell, I am not perfect. It has taken a long time but now I accept my imperfection and fully embrace it. Today was particularly far away from perfect… but I learned a long time ago that our kids don’t want perfect, they want us!
1. What does perfect even mean?
It’s the crazy, unattainable standard that we all strive for but none of us can ever achieve because it doesn’t even exist! What even makes the perfect mum? One who bakes the best cupcakes? What makes the perfect dad? The one who can kick the football the furthest?
Forget the kind of parent you feel you ‘should’ be! What kind of parent do you want to be? Do you want to be the one who is always there if your child needs to talk? The one who smiles when they walk into the room? The one who gets their jokes and hugs them whenever they need it? Letting go of striving for perfection leaves room to be the parent you want to be.
2. What are your mini wins?
When we are busy trying to live up to a totally unattainable standard it’s really easy to feel like we are never good enough. Just because you aren’t doing ALL OF THE THINGS doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing amazing and important things. Can you do me a favour? For a week, write down your mini-wins.
Did you have a lovely heart to heart with your kid? Write it down.
Did you spend some time colouring in with your kid? Write it down.
Did you give your child a long hug when they needed it? Write it down.
At the end of the week, read over your mini-wins. When you see all the amazing things you do, you’ll see what an incredible parent you are (even if the muffins you ate at your picnic were store bought).
3. Peanut Butter Peanut Fish
Have I lost my mind? Probably, must be the 5000 episodes of Bluey we watched recently…
But actually Peanut Butter Peanut Fish is an acronym that helps me remember that what we all really need is: Purpose, Belonging, Peace and Fulfilment.
That goes for your kid, too. Notice how there was no mention of their mum needing to be skinny, or have a Pinterest worthy home or their dad needing to be perfect. They (and you) want and need a sense of purpose, belonging, peace and fulfilment. They just want you to see them, connect with them, accept them and make them feel loved. And most of the time, it’s the little imperfect moments that create that feeling of connection. Letting your kid in on your insecurities and imperfections will make them realise that, just like them, you aren’t perfect either.
4. Aim for delight
Have you ever noticed that when you are worried about what others might think, or how things come across, all the joy and delight get sucked out of things? What if you let go of what others think and just aimed for delight? It might just change your whole outlook and your interaction with your kid. When you keep the idea of ‘aiming for delight’ in your mind, it actually makes a lot of decisions for you.
Should you jump through the sprinklers? Are you aiming for delight? Then ‘yes, yes you should’.
Should you have a fairy picnic in the garden, under an umbrella because it is rather wet? Are you aiming for delight? Then yes!
Should you go for a walk in the pouring rain, make the biggest splashes you possibly can, sing “Singing in the Rain” while you do it and then go home for hot chocolate? Are you aiming for delight?…
I think you get the picture.
5. How can you do less but make it mean more?
People often talk about not having time but actually I think the bigger problem is that we only have so much energy. If you are already tired and stressed, dealing with your kids is going to be so much harder. So what can you do to take away some of the stresses to make sure that you have the mental energy and space to really be there for your kids? What can you let go of in order to make space for the things that really matter? A perfect parent makes their kids organic home cooked meals from scratch every night but a connected parent prioritises laughing with their kids. What if you gave your kids cereal for dinner and used the energy you saved to really laugh with your kids?
So to sum it all up: Connect, connect, connect! Your children love you, they think you are amazing! They don’t want anything from you other than you. You spending unhurried time with them. Everything else is extra! They don’t want a perfect parent, they just want you.
Various, MADE magazine