I have been challenged over the last week to figure out how to do my daily life focusing on connection rather than perfection. So here is the thing, I like to be in control. I’m pretty sure I am always right and I like things that are linear and in order. I like when things go my way and I like everyone to think, “I’ve got it all together”. I like when my house is clean, when all the laundry is folded and put away. I like when my children “behave” -what is that anyway, when they clean up all their messes and follow instructions happily. I like when my husband wants to spend endless hours talking about the latest book I’ve read after he has finished the supper dishes ;), I like when everyone treats each other nicely, there are no arguments and all disputes are solved with calm conversation. I like my family all together, getting along, enjoying each other. I am trying to figure out how to enjoy this wild ride of life when most of these things are not happening in the same day, let’s be honest, I might get one thing to go my way. Which brings me back to connection, how will I keep it all together if I need to spend so much time connecting, the simple answer is I can’t.
I regret that I have made most of my parenting decision based on how it would reflect on me. What I want to be is a mom that makes her decisions based on what is best for her child and what is best for our connection and our relationship. Turns out what is best for them always seems to be what is best for us, but not necessarily what is best or convenient for me.
When I am so busy trying to get it to look perfect, I forget to focus on the journey. I forget to smell the flowers, to laugh when someone messes up, to hear the funny jokes between my kids, and notice when my kids go out of their way to help.
I have had the great honour over the last month to spend many days with women, mothers and friends I really aspire to be like. I love being around people that spur me to examine my own heart and my own method to see if it is really working. I love watching other moms with their kids and seeing the heart connections they share. I love to be around women that talk highly of their spouses and highly of their marriages. I love being challenged to be better and also to be more of myself.
While driving 5800km in a green mini-van with 2, and then 4 children, my pregnant road-tripping girlfriend was sharing how in one of her counseling session they talked about her core (being her immediate family), the front row (those in her extended family and her close friends) and the rest of the audience and how her job was to protect and foster her core FIRST. This totally struck a cord with me. I can remember thinking, yes of course not everyone will agree with you, but that’s okay, then that thought turned into, but do I care most about my core? I mean I love my core more than anyone, but do I care about them more than anyone? For me caring for someone is the real work of love. Feeling emotionally attached and invested is easy for me, I love people, I really do, but actually taking the time and focusing on connecting with someone is different, it’s love with feet. She continued to share advice her mother-in-law gave her when she was challenged with family dynamics, “You can’t change anyone, you can only change yourself and your response.” Right. We all know this but sometimes when you hear it again for the 300th time, the penny drops. My mind was churning and trying to make sense of this new information, how is related to my life and how was I going to file it. The first half of the trip was done, we had arrived in one piece (nothing short of a miracle) and were still friends. The next few weeks would prove to line up perfectly with what we had discussed.
A few days into the trip I had the pleasure of spending two full days with a great friend and fellow “unschooling” buddy (you can read all about her journey on her blog)
and my paradigm shifted again. After observing her kids in action I was challenged to shift away from wanting fully compliant children that were easy to handle. Now don’t get me wrong, her children are delightful, as are mine but I think it is from two different perspectives. As I observed her children, they were fully engaged in life and thoughtful but without being forced into it. My littles are amazing, but the experience ignited the question in me, are they thoughtful because I make them, do they do the right thing because they fear my response or because they want to? Are they just going through the motions without having the right heart behind it? Please understand this is not me knocking who my kids are, they really are very fabulous little people, but I wondered is there is more to them that is being stifled because I wont let them just be themselves. My children and I have always been close but does my hard mom approach create a disconnect? Am I a hard mom because what I want is to appear to have it all together? I know that at the end of my life, as well as everyday until then, what I want most, is to have a strong heart connection with each of them individually. I want them to know they can trust me with their hearts, even the pieces that are not polished yet. I want them to love people and do good because they see me doing that and they want to be like me. I don’t want them to fear doing wrong because I think fear will paralyze what can go right, I want them to live from a place of love and mercy not perfect and right.
During my three week whirlwind trip I also had the pleasure of great parenting conversations with a near and dear friend. She has such a strong connection to our Heavenly Father and is certainly the gal I call when I need a good dose of prayer. She shared with me an experience she had with her daughter and some fellow moms at a soccer field. Her daughter was upset because the other children didn’t want to do exactly what she wanted (this little girl and I have so much in common) and had come to my friend and asked is she would please make the other kids do what she wanted. Oh course my friend explained that she couldn’t do that and suggested she might like to go do something else and play by herself. Notice she did everything “right”, but her daughter EXPLODED… in front of the other parents. My girlfriend is a champ and calmly embraced her daughter and reminded her of how much she loved her even if she says hurtful things. A few moments later, another mom commented on the outburst, she didn’t compliment her on how well she had handled it but rather on how rude her daughter had been. Here is where my friend blew my mind, she stuck up for her daughter. She didn’t stick up for the outburst but she stuck up for her right to be frustrated and be a child. She praised her daughter by saying how she does everything at 150% whether that was caring and loving on her family or being frustrated. She was more concerned with keeping her daughters heart than gaining the approval of a spectator. When she shared that story with me, my heart grew, I realized that keeping the connection is primary and if she could do it, so could I.
So what have a learned, what has brought me closer to living for connection rather than perfection? I have learned as I wade through this journey of parenting, that letting go of perfection opens the door to connection. I have learned that in making sure the needs of my CORE are met, perfection is in not even on the horizon, but it is tangibly richer. When I am not trying to make everything right I have time to experience the brilliance of my kids and witness their beautiful hearts in action. I have learned that when my daughter is having a melt down, she can move on more quickly if I sit and listen to her rather than just shout for her to calm down. I have learned that my husband likes being around me more when I don’t always tell him to. I AM learning to be less annoyed because perfection is no longer my standard. I have also learned that my relationship with God is the same thing, He just wants connection, I don’t have to be perfect first, phew! I have been ACTIVELY working at building a connection for a few weeks now and I am already seeing results. Tonight my daughter was carrying plates to the table for dinner, she was being a bit goofy and dropped them all on the floor. One shattered, she didn’t even have a scratch but she was crying. Gut response, I wasn’t mad (WHAT!!? that is a big deal for a perfectionist), I just picked her up, checked her feet and assured her it was no big deal. She was crying because she felt so bad and was worried I would be mad. That was a sobering moment. I am glad that we are forging ahead for connection rather than perfection, we are creating new responses and I believe one day we will both just laugh and clean up the mess together.
I am recovering control freak. I am a woman on a mission to change myself and serve the world starting with my core. I want to care more about what my core thinks about me than what my front row and most certainly what the rest of the audience is thinking. I want my “children to raise up and call me blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her; ‘“Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.”’ (Proverbs 31:28-29) I want to be a woman that chooses connection over perfection every time.
After all, what I want is legacy not golden statues.