Have you ever locked horns with a four-year-old? I am not proud to admit that I do all the time. I am the Mom, the adult in the room for most of the day. I out-rank them and should know better than to get involved in petty squabbles. But, instead of rising above it and leading by example, I elevate the situation to DEFCON 1 when I bring myself to their level for a showdown. “My name is Pistol-Packin’-Mama and this pile of Legos ain’t big enough for the three of us.” The little infractions add up. Incessant reminders to pick up toys or eat an entire meal or to stop picking on their sibling, they all chip away at the facade of my put together, cheerful, patient, mom persona. When it all comes gaping apart, I have a conniption. Through gritted teeth, my voice low and quiet I offer yet another instruction, more forceful this time, so there is no mistaking my seriousness:
“Clean your room. You are just standing there. Please pick up something with one of your hands and put it in the bucket.”
With each iteration, the back of my neck gets hotter, and my jaw clenches.
Why won’t they just do what I tell them when I tell them…like good little soldiers?
I jest. Sort-of. Of course, I want my kids to think for themselves; the issue is that my kids are not listening to me. That makes me angry. I also worry.
How will I make them respect me?
Do they respect me?
If I don’t get a handle on this now, what is it going to be like when they are teenagers?
I am ashamed at how they act at times; I fear that reflects poorly on my parenting.
There is a driving force, stemming from perfectionism that pushes me to have well-behaved children. I want them to be respectable in public and with other people, to think of the needs of others, and to be obedient but, this drive has nothing to do with them and everything to do with my image as a capable mother.
A few days ago I said that I’m angry because I’ve invested so much of myself into thinking that perfectionism can save me, define me, and validate me. It can’t. Anger always comes when I’ve been duped.
Furthermore, there is an insidiousness to perfectionism that causes me to think that the problem is never with me. I prefer to pin my troubles on something or someone outside my control. This has got to change because if I want to be an authentic person, it means owning my stake in life, whether it is good or bad.
Changing my mindset is the first step in transforming how I deal with life.