August 19, 2014

The Least I Can Do

As a recovering perfectionist, I get still get frustrated when asked to handle a task I don’t understand well. And because I do nothing with our TV other than turning it on to a pre-set news channel, I know little about how to operate our multi-button remote control.

Not long ago, one of my daughters was using the remote to pop in a movie, and the heel of her hand accidentally pressed a button at the bottom of the device. The picture disappeared, replaced by an empty blue screen. And, unfortunately, I reacted very poorly. I could have chosen to calmly attempt to fix the problem. Or I could have simply decided to turn off the TV and wait until my husband got home; after all, the girls and I could have easily managed an afternoon without screen time, and I knew my husband could solve the glitch in a matter of minutes.

Instead, the part of me that still doesn’t handle feeling incompetent reared its ugly head. So I glared at my precious daughter and said, “If you’re going to break this when you use it, you just won’t be allowed to use it at all.”

I hadn’t yelled, but my tone caused her to flinch. And the devastation on her face said it all.

I’d already crossed a line, and the logical part of my brain begged me to leave before I could do more damage. Blessedly, I listened and escaped to my room where I laid sobbing for several minutes, distraught about what I’d just done. A short time later, I called my daughter in, took her hands in mine, looked her squarely in the eye, and admitted my sin against her. I took complete ownership for my inappropriate words, imploring her to believe that she’d had no fault in the matter.

I asked for her forgiveness, and she willingly granted it, but I still worry. This daughter – who is gifted and beyond clever by nature – seems to have inherited my propensity toward perfectionism despite my concerted (though imperfect) attempts to keep it at bay. So I fret that my immature rants – though blessedly occasional – will weasel their way into her soul and cause her to doubt my love and/or her worth. Given her temperament, I fear it would not take much to push her over that edge.

I pray that what God has taught me in recent years will inoculate her – that my willingness (through His grace) to acknowledge that I regularly mess up and to ask forgiveness when I do will push back against the Perfection Infection that threatens her well-being. And I’ve been praying fervently for the self-control to quell my overreactions and unnecessary criticism.

I could dismiss my weakness and say, “Well, I don’t do it often so she can just deal with it.” Sadly, I’ve known a lot of parents who do that with various habits and tendencies. But as the parent, I’m supposed to be mature enough to put my child’s needs above my personal comfort. And because I know the pain of perfectionism first-hand, I refuse to sit by and be a knowing party to it in her life. 

As the mom, that’s the least I can do. What about you?

Photo Credit: Willem Karssenberg


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