I was playing Battleship with my daughter Sasha tonight, and she got very frustrated when the weird flat ship that looks like a garbage barge wouldn’t stay on the board. In case you also haven’t played since 1977, the peg board on which you stick your little ships is now vertical and needlessly fancy. I might be misremembering, but I think it was horizontal back in the day, which boded better for the ships staying put for the bombs to hit them.
Anyway, after trying and failing to keep it on three times, she got fed up and said she didn’t want to play anymore.
Good Mommy angel sitting on my left shoulder: “This is a teachable moment! She should learn to manage her emotions and not give up when something isn’t going perfectly! Call upon your vast God-given reserves of maternal patience and encourage her to persevere!”
Bad Mommy angel, sipping a glass of wine, hacking her way through an entire wheel of Brie on my right: “F**k it. It’s almost bedtime. Kid’s tired. You’re tired. iCarly is on. Cut her a break. Have some cheese. She can learn that lesson some other time, maybe in school, where you won’t have to teach it to her.”
In the end, Bad Mommy angel more or less won out, although I did make Sasha clean up the game, and resolved to talk her through it next time.
Still, I could almost hear the inevitable Fox News commentator ranting about how kids these days are weak and dependent and how that will lead to the future failure of this country in the global marketplace and it’ll all be the fault of cheese-eating moms like me who didn’t lay on the tough love when we had the chance.
But here’s the thing: I come from a personal culture of self-improvement and perfectionism, and my default in my teens and 20s and into my 30s was to do whatever it took to become better/smarter/prettier/thinner. Some of it was unhealthy and most of it was a waste of energy and time, most of all because there was no such thing as good enough, so I never got to feel good. It’s taken me until I became a happy Formerly to give up on the idea that I need to be constantly improving myself. It’s a huge relief, and I get to eat a lot more cheese now that I’m done believing that I have to try so hard.
The latest area in which I’m trying to let myself off the perfectionist hook is parenting, but that’s tricky sometimes when you do want your kids to strive for…not perfection, of course, but doing their best. Or maybe it’s OK that they don’t do their best all the time. I’m not sure. I’m still finding my balance.
Of course whether you need to improve in a particular area depends where you start–I needed to calm down and give myself the opportunity to be human like everyone else. And there are certainly those who don’t try hard enough and give up too easily. But because I still have a bit of the self-improvement slave driver in me, I thought, why not make a list of things I suck at, that I’m perfectly fine with sucking at.
Mine is below. PLEASE tell me what you suck at, and why you don’t really care that you suck at it.
1. I’m a sucky cook. (But I’m an excellent dishwasher loader, so it usually works out.)
2. My handwriting is terrible. Big whoop.
3. I have never sent out a holiday card. No one cares! I think they’d care if I did and then stopped, but I’m under the radar of expectations on that one.
4. I need a calculator to tabulate a tip. Old me: You should be able to do it yourself. New me: That’s what calculators are for.
5. I often have inappropriate feelings for a given occasion. Luckily I’m not bad at keeping them to myself.
6. Winter sports–feh! I excel at lanyard, however.
7. Quite possibly marriage, although I’m not quite willing to concede that one.
Oh, gee, there are too many to list. I suck at writing when it’s bedtime, which it is. Please, celebrate your suckitude in the comment area.