Continuing Our Family’s Anti-Perfection Lesson

True Perfection – Ryan, Four Days Old

The other night during dinner, my son told me that some of his classmates told him he’s a “perfect student.”

“I told them there’s no such thing as perfect,” he said to me.

I was glad.  I’ve been telling Ryan the same thing his whole life.  Perfection isn’t real.  Effort, true and honest and hard effort, is real.

I’ve been very conscious of not using the word “perfect” when it comes to describing anything Ryan does.  I think perfection is an unrealistic expectation, and I remember what it felt like to believe that people expected me to behave perfectly.  In fact, the only time I can remember using the word “perfect” in relation to Ryan was on the night he was born.  As I held this tiny new human being in my arms, and looked at his large, wide-awake, dark eyes and marveled at his very existence, I cried and said, “He’s perfect.”  Over and over again.

But back to my 5th grader’s perfection.

“Why do they say you’re perfect?” I asked.

“They say it’s because I do my work, and I get good grades.  They ask me how I do it, but I didn’t know what to tell them.  I told them I just do it.  Because it has to be done.”

I smiled.  “I think that runs in the family.  We’re really good at figuring out the job that needs to be done, and then trying hard to do that job well,” I said.

“How does it make you feel when they call you perfect?” I asked.

“Good.  Proud,” Ryan told me. 

Our conversation made me think of an essay I wrote several years ago, “Do What You Need to Do” about a lesson my parents taught me about doing “what it takes to get the job done and accomplish your goal.”  That essay was published in the anthology, Lessons From My Parents: 100 Shared Moments that Changed Our Lives.

The lesson continues.

 

An Evolution of Words

 

This week my son, and all the fifth graders at his school, will be watching a video whose content strives to help pre-teens “understand the maturational changes they are beginning to experience and accept these changes as a normal part of growth.”  (That’s what the school note said).  I signed the form, giving my son permission to view this short film at school. 

If you’re not familiar with this, it’s pretty standard protocol at about this age.  Boys and girls watch separate movies, usually with the school nurse in attendance, and also participate in a question/answer session.

It’s one more sign that my sweet boy, while still my sweet boy, is also becoming a bigger boy.  A bigger boy who will soon grow into a young man.

When Ryan was younger, my husband and I never used the anatomically correct words “penis” and “vagina.”  It was “pee-pee”  – serving as both a noun, your body part, as well as the verb, the action you did in the bathroom.  I remember a former co-worker disagreeing with me, chastising me for not teaching Ryan the word “breasts” instead of “boobies.”

But really, cutesy words are just a part of young childhood.  “Paci” for “pacifier,” “piggies” for “toes.”  Often these words were used long after Ryan could pronounce the correct words.

It has made me think of the evolution of words our family has used over the years, some of which Ryan tells me are no longer acceptable.

For example, each week Ryan and I go grocery shopping and before checking out, we always walk by and admire the “beautiful cakes” section.  But, my now-eleven-year-old insists that I refer to it as the “bakery section.”

Here’s another one.  Ryan and I like snacking on chocolate chips (our favorites are at Trader Joe’s).  He used to call them “baby chocolates” which I thought made so much sense based on their size.  I still often refer to them as “baby chocolates,” but now my son reminds me to use their real name, “chocolate chips.”

And just for fun, I’ll share two of my own kid-friendly words I used back during my own childhood.  I called slices of American cheese “square cheese,” based on its shape.  And for no reason that I know of, I used to call Fritos “munch-a-bunch.”

Readers, I’d love to hear from you.  Any words you remember from your childhood?  Or any childhood words you’ve carried with you into adulthood?  Feel free to share them in the comments section!

 

The A to Z List of A Mom’s Jobs

Last week, I made a trip to the market to buy a jar of pickles for my son’s science project. (The experiment – to find out which would grow mold faster: a bowl of spaghetti or a pickle.)

I visited our public library to return the books my son had used for a research project.  (I had also checked out these books almost two months ago.)

I made chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  (In all fairness, they were the break-apart and bake kind.)

I comforted my son during the night when he awoke from a bad dream.  (He felt so uneasy, I wound up lying down on his rug until he fell back asleep just so I would be nearby.) 

I played many rounds of “Heads Up.” (My son holds the record with 15 correct guesses.)

I cooked while trying to ignore the bowl of moldy spaghetti on my kitchen counter. (The pickle just shriveled up).

And in between all that, there were the meals and the clean-up.  The bills that were paid.  The plants that were watered.  The zipper that was unstuck.

In other words, there are a million little, and not-so-little, things that moms do every day just because they are moms.  Because they care about their children.  Because no matter how they do it, all moms are basically trying to do the same thing – help their children be happy, healthy, and safe.

So in honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share with you a post I wrote a few years ago for MomsLA.com.  Click here to read the A to Z List of a Mom’s Jobs.

  

Champion Role Models

At the March 30th, 2019 Clippers game.

It all began because our son, Ryan, borrowed a sports-themed Sesame Street DVD from the public library.

Abby Cadabby was teaching viewers the word “champion,” and she used her magic wand to “poof” Blake Griffin beside her.  He thought he’d been summoned since he was a slam dunk champion.  Instead he was going to participate in a chicken-calling contest – which he won.

And that’s how our son, and our family, became a Los Angeles Clippers fan.

For many, the Clippers weren’t the easiest team to like.  They haven’t won any championships.  Yet.  They’ve had their difficulties and scandals (I’m not  going to name their former owner).  They’ve had to live under the shadow of a more popular Los Angeles team and have always been regarded as the “underdogs,” and “the other L.A. team.”

But not in our house.  Blake brought basketball, Clippers basketball, to our family.  We began referring to the players by a series of initials:  BG (Blake Griffin), CP3 (Chris Paul), DJ (DeAndre Jordan), and JJ (J. J. Redick).  My son was intrigued that a daddy was coaching his son (coach Doc Rivers, son Austin Rivers – now playing on the Rockets).  Ryan even wondered if his daddy could be his coach when he grew up and played for the Clippers.  

Not one of those players is on our current team.  We’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s not very easy for players to have a Dirk Nowitzki-like career.  That just because someone has a contract doesn’t mean they will stay on the team.  That trades are as much a part of the game as the shoes.

Yet we love our current team even more than we did our “initials” team.

This year’s roster includes guys who can most likely go shopping at their local Target without being recognized and asked for autographs.  These are guys who are professional basketball players.  It’s their job.  And some of them smile while they play, like they haven’t stopped marveling at the fact that they’re getting paid (a lot of money) to run back and forth in shorts and try to put the ball through the hoop. 

These are guys who didn’t get much play time before finding their way to Doc Rivers and becoming a regular part of the starting line-up (Landry Shamet).  These are guys who are praised for their off-the-bench prowess (Lou Williams), their spirt (Montrezl Harrell), and their grit (Patrick Beverley).  This is the team without a “superstar” – a team made up of players who all contribute to the overall team win.  Because that’s what basketball is – a team sport.  No one player can do it all.  

And then there are the extended members of the Clippers organization; the people you see on the sidelines.  The people who make you feel like you, as a fan, are a part of something special.

Actor Billy Crystal – Harry Burns to me (When Harry Met Sally) and Mike Wazowski to my son (Monsters, Inc.).  A longtime season ticket holder.  A fan and supporter through the highs and the lows.  

Owner Steve Ballmer, who sits courtside (even during away games), wearing his red and blue shirts.  Clapping and shouting, kicking his feet and turning red with the same excitement my son has shown on Christmas morning.  

The Voice of the Clippers, Ralph Lawler, who is retiring after a forty-year career.  40 years of reporting, of optimism, of professionalism and all with a team that didn’t always win a whole lot.

Before the 2018-2019 season began, the Clippers were counted out.  We were a rag-tag team of no-name players apparently.  Then the trades were made in February, and with the loss of players such as Tobias Harris, our Playoff chances were lost too.  Or so they said.

Except every time our Clippers are told they can’t do something, or they won’t do something, they do it anyway.  And that’s why as a mom, I love that my son is watching the Clippers.  This season especially.

Ryan is 11.  He stands in front of the mirror and sees strength, intelligence, and good looks.  He’ll tell you he’s going to be an astronaut, a professional basketball player, a singer, a doctor.  He believes it’s all possible because no one has told him otherwise.

But someday they will.  Someday someone will count him out, because that’s life.  And that’s when he has to channel our Clippers.

Our Clippers aren’t in possession of a Championship title yet.  But they gave the defending champs a great run.

And to this organization, this mom would like to thank you for being role models for my son and for demonstrating what it takes to be a champion.