The Lessons We Teach Our Children When We Fail


omaha momsConfessions of a perfectionist.

Actually, I don’t at all consider myself a perfectionist. I’m totally imperfect. It’s sort of my thing. Did you ever know someone who was just amazing at something? Me too…I know lots of people like this; I’m just not one of them. Instead, I am just “good” at a lot of things. I consider myself a pretty chill, go-with-the-flow kind of human. (I think it’s the West Coast in me.) Imagine my surprise, then, when my four-year-old daughter turned out to be a card-carrying Type A perfectionist. I mean, where did she get this from?!! I blame my husband. But really, I don’t get it.

I mean, I couldn’t be more loving and accepting of her flaws. How many times could I possibly say that no human being is perfect, and that no one expects her to be perfect? While my expectations are high for behavior and intentions, I am not unreasonable. I am patient. I am forgiving. She, however, expects to get it perfect the first time and affords herself very little room for error. I. Totally. Don’t. Get. It. Well, now I do. And maybe, just maybe, I know where she gets it.

There was one evening in particular where I really felt that I’d dropped the ball. I had the best of intentions, but didn’t make it to her parent preview of her dance recital a few weeks ago. I felt horrific. How could I miss it?!! (Spoiler alert: I later found out there WILL be another one in February, so I am slowly forgiving myself.) After I was done apologizing in the car (with a tear dripping down my cheek), the self-talk started and I began falling down the rabbit hole. “Why couldn’t I do better? I can never seem to get it right. Why didn’t I just (fill in the blank with all of the unreasonable mom expectations that I have of myself)…” That’s when I heard all of the things that my little girl says to herself come out of my mouth, only I was directing them towards myself. Now, rest assured, I have NEVER uttered these words out loud in her presence before. She hadn’t been parroting what she’d heard me say before. Somehow, in that moment of pure, raw failure, I had an epiphany. She is not my husband. SHE is ME. I don’t afford myself any room for error either. There are plenty of things that I don’t do well, but I don’t feel good about not doing them well. I apologize profusely every time I make a mistake. I am extremely patient with everyone in life. Everyone except myself. The world started moving in slow-motion.

How could I save her from this fate?

I was panicked and didn’t know what to do. I’m grown and have all of this fear, how can I possibly help her? My head was spinning. And then my sweet angel took my hand in hers and said, “It’s ok, Mom. No one is perfect. Don’t feel bad. I love you no matter what. It’s ok to not be perfect.” I took a breath. This was a lesson that I’d tried to teach her a thousand times through my words and fallen short, but in this moment of Mommy failure, she’d gotten it without me having to say a word in explanation.

So hang on, Mama. We don’t have to be perfect.

We are going to make mistakes. But someone is watching you and listening to you and it’s ok to mess up. It’s going to be hard, and frustrating, and at times you may feel like you’re failing. But remember, even in your failure there is a lesson to be learned. This time, it was a lesson for me…

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Erica is an Omaha transplant from Northern California and has lived in Omaha off and on since 1993. She is mom to two wonderful children who fill her with love and joy. Because her husband’s career requires him being gone for long stretches of time, she has learned to streamline being a career mama while flying solo for months at a time. Her middle school reading students add some excitement to her days, and her kids keep the humor going strong into the evenings. Erica also manages to have a Mary Kay business in her "free time". She has many tips for traveling with small children as well, since she travels internationally with the kiddos at least once a year. She enjoys reading, and belongs to the best book club ever; being active; and sharing an occasional cup of coffee or wine with friends. You'll find her out and about on weekends and evenings embracing every drop of motherhood.