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.


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