I am that mom. And I hate it.
I am that mom who sees an 88 on a second grade test paper and thinks "How is she going to be valedictorian if she keeps getting 88s???"
I am that mom who has her child reading her AR book on the way to school in the morning even though we read it five times the night before, quizzes her on spelling words while she takes a bath, and tries to squeeze in vocabulary words during the nightly prayer.
I am that mom who randomly and without warning (and possibly in the middle of a sentence just to see if she is paying attention) will demand her child answer "What is 9+9?? Quick...you should know this by now!"
I am that mom who watches her child miss pitch after pitch when she is at batting practice or ball after ball when she is playing first base and I think "How will she make varsity as a freshman if she can't hit or catch a stinking ball???"
I am that mom who wonders if we can squeeze in private softball lessons into the only free night we have that week?
I am that mom who heads to Academy to buy every piece of catcher's gear because they tried my kid in that position for five minutes during a practice and in my mind she might be the female version of Pudge Rodriquez someday.
I am that mom who thinks my kid should be exposed to every sport and extra curricular activity in case she is the next Serena Williams...or Dara Torres...or Dorothy Hamill...or Mia Hamm...or even the next...Taylor Swift...or Maya Angelou.
I push. I push when I tell myself I shouldn't push. I push when I tell myself she is smart enough...or talented enough...or strong enough to handle being pushed.
I push until she breaks. And then I break because I failed as a parent and hurt my kid.
My kid is only 8 years old and she already knows what it looks like to see her mom disappointed when I look into the folder of her backpack or when I watch from the sidelines. She knows. She has seen my face...she has heard me yell...she has heard my silence.
And she is a competitive perfectionist herself which makes this situation even crazier. She hates to not be the best. She hates to mess up. She hates to get answers wrong. She REALLY hates to be corrected...ESPECIALLY by me or her dad.
So Friday night as I was driving home from a football game getting text messages about how Dotty's first slumber party was going at her dad's house I found myself not thinking about five little girls being silly, or playing dress up, or watching movies, or giggling with each other.
No...I found myself thinking how else I could get Dotty to be better. How I could get her to get 100s more often than almost always. How I could get her to be perfect.
Then it hit me...not another vehicle...although the impact of my realization did bring about physical pain.
I was that kid who strived for perfection in every area. I was that student who had stomach ulcers in high school from worrying about grades. I was that player who loved sports but never really enjoyed them because I was so worried about messing up. I was that friend who wanted everyone to like me so much I didn't like myself very much.
I was also valedictorian. I also did make the varsity basketball team as a freshman. If you look at my high school and college resume you might be very impressed. And I will say I loved being good and smart and successful. I still do. I still push to be perfect.
But I am also the adult who has spent many hours in counseling working on my addiction to perfection. I no longer get "graded" and without those grades I have lost a lot of validation that I am still "good enough". I no longer play sports in which whole towns cheer for me and my team and now it is hard to be my own cheering section.
As all this hit me so suddenly Friday night I pulled my car over. I could barely breath under all this new insight.
I sat there thinking to myself..."How much good did being valedictorian or on varsity really do me in the long run???" Yes I got scholarships that were very helpful and yes I learned how to work hard both in school and in sports and I carry that work ethic over into my every day life. But when high school and college were all said and done...what did a 4.0 GPA or a letter jacket with a bunch of patches on it really mean now at almost 36 years of age.
So I had to reevaluate what I really want Dotty to learn in school and sports and extra curricular activities and life in general.
I want her to learn how to be a good person. I want her to learn how to be kind and compassionate. I want her to learn how to help those who can't help themselves. I want her to learn what really makes her happy (not what will make her momma happy). I want her to learn how to be her own #1 fan. I want her to learn how to fail...and then try again...and then fail again...and still be okay. I want her to love herself. I want her to know that nothing...and no one is perfect. I want her to learn to do her best and then to let the rest go.
I am a big believer in the power of positive sayings and if you walk into my house you will see post-it notes all over surfaces with positive affirmations written on them. My newest favorite that I heard the other day is "Best is good...Better is best".
I have it written on several notes throughout the house and I asked Dotty if she knew what it meant.
"Nope...but I bet you are going to tell me" she said with her best second grade sarcastic voice.
I explained to her that being the best is okay...it isn't bad to be the best and in fact it is good to be...but just trying to make ourselves better is really the best way to look at life. Every day we should wake up and try to make ourselves not the best...not perfect...but simply better than we were.
My favorite Maya Angelou quote is "when you know better you do better" and I swear this is my mantra for life and especially for parenting.
I still struggle with my addiction to perfection but I am trying to get better.
As her mom I don't want to pass this addiction onto my sweet girl. I want her to be better than me. I want her to be happier and healthier and whole. I want her to work hard and try hard and do her best but I don't want her to feel like she has to be perfect to be accepted or okay or loved.
So my homework as a parent is to practice letting go of the ideas that my kid can or should be the best at anything and to simply let her be the best Dotty she can be. After all the world has lots of valedictorians and people who can hit homeruns but in this world there is only one Dotty.