I just put my kids to bed. That’s my thing- I have to tell them to go to bed. I have to make sure they brush their teeth first. I have to tell the one to take his meds. I have to tell them to hurry up, like what… 50 times. Then I have to talk about their day (all those silly insignificant details, that I really couldn’t care less about, because my youngest just drones on and on, but it’s important to him, so I listen careful, all while trying to get him to please hurry up) as they are climbing into their beds and cleaning up legos. I have to tell them “I love you.” I make sure I say that to them every night because I don’t want them to ever feel unloved. I have to turn on the lightsaber they use for a nightlight. I have to turn off the light and tell them to go to sleep and that I love them, again. I close the door and go back to watever I was doing before bedtime. I have to do that every night. I told my wife that if I ever die, she would have to put the kids to bed. And by put the kids to bed, I meant all of what I do. Exactly like I do it. Because I think it’s extremely important. It’s my thing.
So tonight I’m in the process of doing that and as I go to check on my youngest who is brushing his teeth, I notice a pea sized speck of blue toothpaste on the floor. So when he finishes brushing his teeth, I say to him, “get a piece of toilet paper and clean up that toothpaste.” Then I criticize him (which I didn’t realize I was doing at the moment) by saying, “I don’t understand how you always make messes wherever you go.” (He is very messy for a 4th grader.)
He immediately got that look in his eyes. I remember having that look in my eyes when I was his age. I remember feeling just like he did at that moment. I felt ashamed. I felt humiliated. I had made a mistake, and I was supposed to be perfect. I didn’t make mistakes, but here I was again screwing something up. That’s not who I am. And then revolting frustration. It’s as if I didn’t like who I was.
And that’s what I saw in my little boy’s eyes.
He started trying to explain why he dropped the toothpaste.
I told him that he didn’t have to explain himself. And the look got worse. He head and eyes drooped to the floor.
I immediately grabbed him and whispered in his ear, “It’s OK to make a mistake. It’s OK to be wrong. It doesn’t make you less of a person to be wrong. No one can expect you to be perfect. NO ONE is perfect. No one can ask you to be perfect, and no one expects you to be perfect. Everyone messes up and breaks things and screws stuff up. EVERYONE! Including you. And that’s perfectly OK. It is OK to make a mistake and it is OK to be wrong. I will love you just the same if you mess things up as if you are perfect, and no one will ever change that. It is OK to be wrong. You try to do things right, but it’s is perfectly OK to mess up sometimes. And when you do, you admit it, you try to fix it, then you go on with your life. It’s that simple. I’t is OK to make a mistake. And when you do, it doesn’t make you any less of who you are. You will always be the perfect you. Mistakes and all. And that’s why I love you; because you are the perfect you. You don’t have to explain yourself. Just try to fix it, and then just keep being who you are.”
“Do you understand?”
Tears started running down my face as I asked him that- just as they are now as I write this.
I hope he understood.
I don’t want my son to have to think he has to be perfect all the time. That’s my problem. I’m doing much better now, although I did struggle with this for as far back as I can remember. Well, I think I do remember, but that’s for another post- still working on that one.
I don’t want my son to struggle with the same emotional shit I’ve had to deal with all my life. I got it from my mom. I’m pretty sure my mom got it from the way she was raised. From the stories my uncles tell about their dad… and the way he treated their mom and them. So what they say about psychological problems being hereditary- absolutely! It’s passed on from a parent to the child- though the way the parent interacts with the children. My grandfather apparently tormented my mom and her siblings. Looking back on it now, I am pretty sure my mom was exactly like I have been. I don’t want that for my boys!
I want to break the chain. I DO NOT want my son to have that same mindset that I did. I want my son to have a happy- a truly happy life.
I think I’m extremely sad and extremely pissed off at the same time that I had to live the first 30 some odd years of my life with THAT mindset.
I’m still working on it, but I will conquer this!