The “Type A” Struggles Of A Perfectionist Parent


Since I became a parent nine years ago, I’ve been keeping a mental list of all the stuff that nobody tells you about being a parent.  Like, nobody tells you that when you go to the park with a two year-old who insists that everything is “MINE,” you’re somehow supposed to make her share her sand toys with kids she’s never even met.  Or, nobody tells you that when your five year-old gets a cold and has tons of disgusting yellow mucus dripping out of his nose, he’s going to eventually choke on it and puke.  More than once.  And always at three am.

Anyway, I’ve got a new thing to add to the list this week. 

Stuff Nobody Tells You About Being a Parent Number No. 9,542,351 (not that I’m counting) – It is really hard to watch your kid get multiple questions wrong on her math homework and not be allowed to say anything.

You see, as I was reminded at Back-To-School Night last week, parents are not supposed to get involved with their kids’ homework, because the teachers want to see if the kids are actually absorbing what they learn in school.  If they’re missing questions on their homework, the teachers can look at it and be all, “hey, I think this is something we need to re-teach, because a bunch of kids aren’t getting it.”  But if you correct it, then the teachers think that everything is cool, and they push on ahead while your kid gets more lost by the minute.  So we were told (in so many words), to back the hell off.  Parents can be in the room while our kids do their homework, but we’re not supposed to hover like little shoulder-height helicopters, pointing out every error, and we’re not supposed to check over their work once they’re finished with it, either.

I totally get this.  I understand the idea behind it, I agree that it’s the best course of action, I support the teachers one hundred percent, and I can see how this will make my child a more independent student in the long run.  But OMG, it is so freakin’ hard to do!  

Maybe it’s not so hard for everyone, I don’t know.  But (as much as I hate to admit it), I’m Type A.  I’m a perfectionist.  I like for things to be right.  I’m working on this, I swear, and I’ve gotten way better at tolerating imperfection than I used to be.  But when I work, I still triple-check every sentence I write.  I still spend ridiculous amounts of time lining up margins and making sure there aren’t any inconsistencies in font or font size from one chapter heading to another.  I don’t tend to make careless mistakes.  (I do make plenty of stupid mistakes, but they’re not usually because of carelessness.)  And so, to see glaring errors staring me in the face and not try to correct them – well, this requires copious amounts of self-control on my part.  And in case you missed the part where I said it earlier, OMG, it is so freakin’ hard.

But, I’m doing it.  I’m backing the hell off.  I don’t want to turn my daughter into a crazy nut-job like I am.  I don’t want her to think that it’s not okay to make mistakes, or that it’s bad somehow to be wrong.  God knows I don’t want her to be afraid of failing. 

It took me nearly thirty years to be okay with the prospect of failing, and I missed out on a lot of opportunities during that time because I was too scared to try them.  I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay if she listed the numbers from lowest to highest when the directions clearly said to list them from highest to lowest.  It’s okay if she added two numbers together when she obviously should have subtracted.  And it’s okay if she rounded to the hundredth place instead of to the thousandth.  The only way she will ever learn what she did wrong is if she’s allowed to get it wrong.  I know this.  I just wish someone had told me about it a little bit earlier, so that I could have prepared myself a little bit better.  But it’s okay.  There are bigger fish to fry than this one.  For example, Stuff Nobody Tells You About Being a Parent Number No. 9,542,352 - lice.



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