Monday, January 18, 2010

Letting go of Perfectionism

It's comical and ironic that I can claim to be a perfectionist in anything. My house is in chronic disarray, and I am forgetful. The trouble is that I'm picky about stupid stuff. I drive The Oracle batshit because I am forever leaving the cabinet doors hanging open, yet I am annoyed when unoccupied chairs aren't pushed in.

One of my worst traits is hovering over anything being cooked. It sort of makes sense to hover when the kids are helping, but I hover over The Oracle too. Understandably, he finds this irritating and I can't blame him.

It is very difficult for me to butt out while the kids are doing their homework. I see them mispelling a word or forgetting to carry a number while adding, and I need to chomp on the insides of my lips to keep them shut. Yes, they need to correct their work, but they need a chance to find that error and figure out why they made it for themselves.

I think I mentioned before that I love Scrabble. My mother perpetually kicked my butt. I'd pore over my letters to come up with something worthy only to see mom sort of wrinkle her lips and briskly rearrange my tiles into a higher-scoring word for my turn. I admit I've done this too, but mostly with people who seldom played the game. She taught me these few cutthroat Scrabble rules:

  • Premium letters (five points and above) need to land on premium tiles.

  • Don't "waste" an S on a single word. Having an S means you can tie it to another word by making a plural, and you'll get credit for making two words instead of one.

  • The same rule applies for blank tiles.

  • The only exception to the above rules is if you clear your rack in one shot with a seven-letter word somewhere on the board.

When The Oracle and I play Scrabble on FaceBook (yep. we'll sit here with our separate computers and take turns), I try to forget about Mom's rules. Sometimes it's easy; other times the ten-dollar words seem to jump out of the rack at me and I'm compelled to use them and get accused of being just like my mom.

When it came time to decorate the Christmas tree, my mom had certain rules for us kids to follow: Do not hang two ornaments of the same color next to each other. All ornaments must dangle freely from their hooks. They are not to sit cockeyed with one side resting on a branch.

We'd help decorate the tree, and she'd rearrange the ornaments after we went to bed.

My favorite, however, was tinsel. I'm talking about the individual silver strands, not the strung-together stuff also called "garland." Mom was SO picky about tinsel. In her eyes, tinsel must be placed on the tree one strand at a time. Throwing it at the hard-to-reach upper branches was forbidden. (In my teens I learned that I could take a wad of tangled tinsel and sort of "comb" it onto the branches when Mom wasn't looking.)

Adding insult to injury, most people discarded the tinsel with the tree. My mother, however, saved her tinsel from year to year, carefully picking it off the tree and packing it up for the following year. Because of this, our house was probably one of the last in the country to decorate a tree using lead tinsel which was banned (and replaced by plastic) in 1960- or 1970-whatever as a health hazard.

These last few years I haven't bothered with tinsel at all. I just haven't had the time. This is probably the first year I didn't feel guilty about it.

With our Christmas tree, I've successfully chucked most of the rules. It may have something to do with the fact that all of my favorite, sentimental ornaments are semipermanently packed away -- temporarily replaced by indestructible plastic ones -- so my heathen children don't destroy them. They treat the Christmas tree like their own little toy store. It drives me nuts. And short of putting the fallen ornaments back on the tree, I do not rearrange their hard work.

Mighty B. got an Easy Bake oven for Christmas. He is so proud of his oven. He loves using the mixes to bake cakes and cookies. I think we have enough mix left for two more cakes and one batch of cookies, and then I'm off to the online recipes so he can make more.

He does really well, too, without much interference from me. He carefully follows the rules and hasn't done anything stupid with his oven or other equipment yet. Tonight, The Oracle made some awesome brownies, and he let Mighty B. bake some of the batter in the Easy Bake oven. Good thing, too, because the buggers are supposed to cool two hours before cutting into them. At least the kids got to sample them before tomorrow.

Precious Daughter just finished a really cool project for school, creating a sock puppet. She did a terrific job. The only help I provided was sewing the mouth into the sock and getting the hair on its head. She had to design it and give it personality. I'm sorry I didn't take a picture before she turned it in Thursday morning. It's very hard for me to not take over. I love this kind of stuff, so it's extra hard to sit down and shut up and see what she creates.

Getting the pipe-cleaner hair into the prefab hat she covered in blue glitter was a nightmare. We spent the better part of ninety minutes farting around with standard glue and all manner of propping up until I remembered that we owned a stupid glue gun, same having been purchased for making angel wings two years ago.

She got an "O" (outstanding) on her project, and not just for the construction. "Juliet" is described as kind. She not only looks awesome in her glittery hat and wild pipe-cleaner hair, she has sparkly blue button eyes. She sings scat in lieu of speaking, growls when she's angry, and bites bullies. She does not like cheese or lacrosse. She likes making friends and cheerleading, but since she doesn't talk, she only yells at the end of the cheers. Really, now. If I'd interjected my will into this project, would she have been half that cool?


The Cotton Wife said...

My grandma and I played Scrabble together like that. She couldn't stand to lose and neither could I. I need to find time to play with her again!

Rustys Mom said...

I know this sounds preachy but perfectionism really screws up your life in so many ways. How do you know this, you ask? It drags me down all the time. Since I can get it perfect I beat myself up for it. I've been working really hard not to screw up my kids in the same way. Sounds like you're doing better than me. E

Dragon Lady said...

Scrabble, hmmmm.

We were never allowed to play. If we weren't making up words, we were playing Obscene Scrabble. Basically, we were such a rowdy and competative bunch of kids that Mom encouraged us to play Solitare and solve crosswords.