Last Christmas, I asked for knitting needles and yarn. Because I wanted to really test out my new found sense of inner peace. I got farther than my first try, years ago. Then, I could barely stand to knit out more than a couple rows before having to take everything back out and redo it. And I get that this is called the ‘Learning Process.’ The thing is, I’ve never had much patience for it.
Trying to knit again, well, it was almost like my subconscious was like “You have a few more things to iron out. Here, try this!” As you can see I managed to get past a row or two, even if simply by dogged determination. Then my daughter came along and just totally blew my mind.
“Are you almost done? Are you almost done?!” She would repeatedly ask.
“Not quite.” And I would start to make some excuse as to why it wasn’t perfect, but she would interrupt every time with a deep sigh of appreciation.
“Mama. It’s beautiful.” She would say. “I can’t wait until you are finished.”
It was like my brain cells came to a screeching halt. This? This is beautiful? All I could see were the missed holes and places where the tied together yarn stuck out. All my daughter could see was that I was making her something in her favorite colors. Kids have such a wonderful way of seeing into the beauty of things.
It’s almost hilarious how challenging it can be to accept imperfection. Especially for recovering ‘perfectionists.’ Because imperfection is the way of the world. There is no escaping it. Perfectionism is, in a way, immature or obstinate. It holds you outside of the world, outside of judgement or effort – since the high ‘standards’ make it nearly impossible to actually feel that a project is complete. I used to take painting lessons from an oil painter in Seattle. I once asked him how he knew when a painting was finished.
He just laughed.
Imperfection is beautiful because it is real. It is raw. Learning to accept ourselves, imperfections and all shows our children that we are participants in our own world. We are not waiting on the sidelines for a perfect moment that will invite our enjoyment. We are choosing to celebrate the beautiful mess that is life.
There are so many imperfect things about parenting; our unschooled reactions in mornings before we’ve had our coffee, the myriad of bodily fluids we encounter on a daily basis, the fears, the feelings of inadequacy in the face of decisions that affect the lives of our children, when we inadvertently take out our own feelings on our kids, the list goes on.
But there are also so many beautifully imperfect things about parenting; the look in your child’s eyes when they’ve broken a dish, wide and vulnerable, an opportunity to reaffirm your love for them; when your child yells at you out of anger, but you are able to talk through and be patient for the sadness that lurks underneath and you hold each other, letting tears flow; when you realize something you said mistakenly causes hurt feelings and you apologize, showing that adults make (and admit to) mistakes, too.
My daughter loves is to hear stories about when my husband or I got hurt or made mistakes as children. At first we were a little surprised at the request, though we shared readily anyhow. But as I thought about it, it made more sense. Parents can seem so big and in charge – even in the more egalitarian type parenting styles. The parent is still the human who has been around longer, who has established themselves in one way or another, who has stories to tell about their past, who appears to have everything figured out. Our daughter was yearning to bridge the gap between her feelings of newness and our ‘life experience.’ I remember when adults seemed that way to me, too. Now I know better!
Imperfection is something we all have in common.
Accepting the ourselves in totality is to be patient and kind, compassionate and understanding, and oh-so-forgiving. We are not robots. We are not perfect. But there are so many opportunities in a day to allow some better part of ourselves to rise to the surface. We just have to be patient and believe. We have to keep knitting even if it’s riddled with imperfection.