Hello, my name is Carey, and I’m a perfectionist.
More accurately, I’m a recovering first born-type A-controller-authoritarian-perfectionist. I’m learning how my tendency to micro-manage negatively affects all aspects of my life. It affects my homemaking, my photography, and even my parenting. Control always comes at a cost. Is it worth it?
When practically every single component of young children’s lives is controlled externally, it is natural for that tension to result in frustrated, defiant children. When my children were tiny, I sought opportunities to give them age appropriate control. As toddlers, that meant they could choose between two options for a snack, or decide if they wanted to play a game or go outside first. Not necessarily all the time for every thing, but often enough. As they grew, this broadened. But I needed them to obey me on issues of safety and issues of their heart. I discovered that they are far less likely to resist me on the real issues if they feel they have control of some aspects of their life.
Today my daughter is six years old, and she is the most delightful little girl with a beautifully strong spirit. She was much more challenging in her early years than her older brother, however. Her strong willed spirit presented my equally strong willed spirit with a degree of challenge that I had yet to encounter in life. It was over the course of these battles of her youngest years that I came to recognize just how much I was still trying to unnecessarily control. The war for her heart granted me a different perspective and the wisdom to discern which issues were truly battles to fight.
I have become much more selective about which hills are ones I’m willing to die on. Now I consider issues through these three filters:
A: is this an issue of safety?
B: is this a character issue?
C: does this affect others negatively?
If the answer to those questions is ‘no,’ then the issue is something I don’t need to control. Things may not be done my way, but it is hers to choose. She is her own person and not an extension of me. What really matters are issues of character — issues of her heart. The clothes she chooses to wear are of no consequence in the grand scheme of life and my ultimate goal of parenting her to adulthood with a good character. How she wishes to fix her hair doesn’t matter. How she wants to decorate her own room is her choice – it is her room and she is the one to live in it. If she wants to play with a toy in a strange or unconventional way, who cares?
My daughter was two when she began to show her preferences for clothing choices, and I let her. Was it embarrassing to go out in public with her wearing nine different hair bows, mismatched clothes, and two different shoes? ABSOLUTELY. At first. Because I still had my own pride intertwined a little bit. I felt that her outward appearance somehow reflected on me: as a person, as a woman, as a mother. That is PRIDE, but not the good kind. It isn’t okay for her to suffer for my selfish pride.
Did I want her to look cute and matched because that was important to her, or because it gave others an impression of me that I wished to portray?
Was I communicating to her that she was only beautiful when her outer appearance met certain guidelines, instead of teaching her that her beauty comes from the inside and her unique way of putting things together to reflect herself?
I realize now that her seemingly eclectic appearance actually does reflect on me in a wonderful way. I believe that when others see my six-year-old little princess dressed in her amazingly interesting combinations, she is endeared to them. They see a mom who has embraced the unique gift of a person she’s been given to raise. They see a mom who knows what’s truly important.
My daughter dresses to the beat of her own drum. I absolutely adore it. And I believe that she, and I, are the better for it.
This article was written by Carey Pace.