It’s 5pm and my son Jay has been working on the same homework problem for an hour now. “Jay, please stop. I will write a letter to your teacher explaining that you just did not understand it and she will go over it in class. I am sure if you did not get it others didn’t too. That is what homework is all about. It is a way for the teacher to see if you got the lesson she taught in school. Please… put your pencil down,” I plead with my 10 year old son. But Jay is stuck. His need to succeed, to get it right, to be perfect is too strong.
Nastiest Ism – Perfectionism
Jay has Asperger’s Syndrome and the world to him is either black or white. No matter how hard I try to show him that there are so many pretty colors in between, he just doesn’t see them. He sways back and forth between not wanting to give up on something and not wanting to even try, if he knows he can’t be PERFECT at it. It is a constant struggle, the demon that rages its ugly head in our home the most. The nastiest “ISM” of them all in my opinion: PERFECTIONISM!
It is easy to see this quality in my child, heck it’s hard not to when he is melting down over a “B” instead of an “A” grade. I know this is a trait that many kids with Aspergers have. But what I wasn’t so sure of was whether or not this could have also been a LEARNED behavior. You see, the apple doesn’t really fall far from the tree.
The Perfectionism Apple Doesn’t Fall Too Far from the Tree
I have many perfectionism traits myself. Not in an OCD way. No, more in an, I can’t go to bed if there are dirty dishes in the sink type of way. I know this about myself and I am constantly striving to not project this attitude onto my kids, especially on my Jay. It is a daily struggle to concentrate on the good 9 out of 10 things going on in my life instead of the one bad. I know too well just how much being a perfectionist can zap the enjoyment out of life. I don’t want that for my kids, or myself. So instead, I have embraced my own im-perfectionism (how ironic is that) and use it as a way to show my kids how a different perspective can make a world of difference.
Change Perspectives in Dealing with Perfectionism
I decided to try my hand at making home-made bread. I know I am far from being Betty Crocker but I am not a contestant for the TV show World’s Worse Cook either. Inspired by a Food Network episode, I set out to make my own loaf of wholesome goodness. Seriously… how hard could it be, right?
WRONG! Perhaps I did not let the dough rise long enough. Maybe I missed an ingredient? Did I not knead it long enough? Whatever I did … it was not right and what was supposed to be a plump loaf of mouth-watering heaven looked more like a flat and hard Frisbee. I was disappointed and angry with myself. Come on, making bread is one of the simplest things to do and here I blew it.
That is when my kids walked into the kitchen and took one look at the bread or what was supposed to be bread sitting on the counter and started to crack up. I stopped beating myself up for a moment and instead tried looking at my bread with the same eyes that my kids were. And when I did, that guess what…I started cracking up too.
“Wow mom, that thing could be considered a lethal weapon it’s so hard!”, my son said while holding his stomach from laughing so heartily. “Oh mommy, I don’t think the dog would eat that… and he eats everything!”, my daughter exclaimed in between giggles. The three of us laughed so robustly, that we had tears rolling down our cheeks.
Oh, of course I stopped long enough to point out just how UN PERFECT I was and how that was okay. I wasn’t really sure that my kids were getting the point when all of the sudden my Jay said…
“Mom, no one is perfect. That is why pencils have erasers or in your case, why BAKERIES exist!”
My boy is so un-perfectly PERFECT!!!