We have been on a school break and academically this is the busiest time of year for my kids as they surge forth into projects, creating and researching and well just doing. Which is why I have been keeping up with the laundry and the dishes and well Spring cleaning… it really is the season!!! You wouldn’t believe it though, with all the dozens of cold, rainy days… one would think that by now we would be enjoying sunny days beside the pool – but none of that. Which, don’t tell anyone I said this, is really a good thing. I have been able to re-sort, shuffle the kitchen… sort out our messy back room that I hardly ever put on our blog, because… well why would I!!! And gather up the kids schoolwork ready to box and store before we start the next year.
As I sort through my kids’ schoolwork I see pages of great work and then something really shabby… I see pages of fabulous, well-illustrated notes, followed by some very mediocre work. Everything in me wants to call my students back to the table and finish that one remaining map… or whip through those last few pages of word problems. You know, for completeness and perfection and all that. And I think back to when I was in school – my marks were galactically mediocre all the way through primary school. I was never called back at the end of the year to re-do an assignment I hadn’t done well… you got your marks and lived with it. And I don’t intend to call any of my students back to the table either – tempted, but I won’t. Because, to be honest their work is good enough. Some of it isn’t, but enough of it is. I think as a mom we are so busy looking for perfection in our kids that we sometimes forget that “good enough” is really perfect too.
It’s not just about kids and it’s not just about school, we spend countless hours looking for the perfect fit, the perfect match… I remember waiting in a fitting room with a friend while she tried on twenty-eight pairs of jeans… looking for the perfect fit. At least two thirds of them were good enough… but she was looking for perfection. When she asked if I wanted to help her to find matching shoes I declined the invitation. The quest for perfection can so ruin things that are really more than good enough: choosing just the right colour for a bridesmaid dress, how to celebrate graduation… these are the sort of things that can make or break friendships. The trap I fall into constantly: Looking for the perfect gift… aaahhh looking for a gift that means as much as your friendship and then worse – keeping it a secret for the inevitable surprise. My poor friends often have to settle for a slab of chocolate, I just crack in that quest for perfection.
Recently we couldn’t decide on what to get our youngest for his birthday. We have a policy of one fab gift. We agonized, we pondered, we went around in circle. In the end, and on the day, a mad rush of circumstances way beyond our control led us to a toy store that we never ever shop in. We let him choose something. He picked a jeep (a man after my own heart). It was not the perfect gift: the classic picture book, the beautiful wooden toy to add to our collection. It was a jeep and the doors open and close and it hasn’t broken yet. He was happy with it, and the gift was good enough… perfect in fact – he loves it and will cherish and remember it as his first real car, for a long time to come. In fact, how often at the end of a long tiring day have I wanted to create the perfect evening and set aside a pile of favourite books to read at bedtime and then gone out of my way to create the perfect dinner – when I didn’t have all the ingredients and I have chosen a meal that takes hours… Everything ends up late and by the time a semi-recognizeable dinner is served… everyone is way too tired and cranky and dashed off to bed straight afterwards, without a glance at the stories. Seeking perfection, when an egg on toast would have been good enough.
The pursuit of excellence, has become so much more than a book title, it has become our cultural norm, our lifestyle. Everything counts. To be honest, my kids’ biggest achievement in the summer ahead is probably going to be some sort of fort, that they add to and add to and add to… it is not going to be an architectural achievement and none of them will win any awards. What they will get is a belief in themselves, they will know what they can and can’t do. They will learn to negotiate and tackle a problem as a team and they will spend hours and hours dreaming and plotting and planning. Their fort will be good enough for reading a book and playing house, it will keep them busy day after day. It won’t be perfect and it is unlikely to get them a job one day, but it will be good enough for a summer well spent.
My kids are replenishing and restoring their balance… and I have been busy. I could learn a thing or two from them, and the big lesson hear is stop seeking perfection and settle for good enough. There school books are sorted well enough on the shelf; their closets, are sorted – not perfectly, but well enough for another year to step into; the kitchen counters aren’t perfectly clear… but they are all good enough. And sometimes we need to settle for good enough and enjoy our blessings for what they are… rather than seeking perfection and not noticing that the “good enough” we live with is indeed perfection enough.