Mothering, Perfect

Dreadfully, Perfectly

Tonight I have to mark the future hem of LP's concert dress with pins. It is not an exaggeration to say I am dreading this task. My lack of sewing ability reminds me of all the other motherly things I don't do, or haven't done, well. Last night I could not figure out how to pin up something that has seven extra inches of fabric, and I gave up and went to bed, but then I lay awake worrying about it.

My sewing advisor, who will actually sew the hem, suggested I simply mark the level at which we want the hem. She will cut the fabric. (Thank you! Thank you!)

Sewing eludes me. Maybe it's too much like geometry, something which also filled me with dread. 

I think I dread them because they leave me feeling incompetent. I don't know if that incompetence lies in a lack of effort when I first had the chance to develop the skills or in a lack of talent for pursuing them. Either way I feel lacking. I tend to hate things I'm not good at doing, or think I'm not good at doing.

It's possible I have handed this trait down to my daughter, and it seems that when she is in the grip of those feelings, I then feel I have failed her and we become an unpleasant matched set, dreadfully and perfectly.

I wish I could say I quickly become conscious of what's happening and never get upset.

I wish I could say I'm perfect at parenting.

I wish.

It's possible I'm avoiding the pins now.

Do you avoid things you fear you cannot do perfectly? I used to think this was my own unique psychological complex, until my oldest pointed out that wanting to do things well, or rather not wanting to fail, is part of the human condition. 

This fall, I've been finding myself stretched and inadequate to meet some of the demands in my life. I don't like to give less than everything to anything, and that leads to not having anything to give at all. I could use a time of rest for the spirit.

But not tonight. Tonight, I pin the dress.

12 thoughts on “Dreadfully, Perfectly”

  1. It certainly is a trait in our house to avoid things we fear we will not do perfectly… I had to learn “good enough is good enough” in CPE. It’s a constant struggle here too. Good luck with the pins – glad you found help!

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  2. Ugh, me too. Our daughter is only two, and she’s the same way. I hate to think I’ve passed on this perfectionist stuff instead of perseverance in the face of difficulty. Sigh. And sewing difficulties keep me up at night too.

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  3. Absolutely!
    And sewing is one of them, so I empathize. I HATED the sewing part of Home Ec (which was required for girls when I was in jr. high–ugh). And to make it worse, my mother and sister were both good at it.
    Good luck.
    And a pox on perfectionism in all our houses!

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  4. I totally avoid things I want to be perfect. Case in point? My 3 page paper on a Pedro Almodovar film, due 5 weeks ago, still not written – how can I fit everything I want to say into only three pages?!

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  5. I’m a recovering perfectionist and I’m not even good at that recovery. *g*
    I CAN, however, sew and sew quite well. (Visit my blog and see, and if you would like a pair of my tissue cozies from the “Share the Love!” campaign, send me your snail mail and I’ll send them to you.) I’ve sewn banners for church, I’ve tailored pants for ol’ ladies at church and I make and teach making all sort of lovelies.
    BUT, I couldn’t arrange a flower, decorate a room or even make a bed in a stylish way. I couldn’t write and deliver a stirring sermon and I certainly can’t turn bread and wine into the body and blood. But I make a mean cozy.
    It has taken me over 47 years to get to point to where it doesn’t bother me…mostly. It’s all about making the best out of the gifts we’ve been given, right?

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  6. Oh, and don’t even get me started on my failures as a mother. My youngest (or four) just turned 18 and lately I seem to have a looped film of motherly shortcomings and regrets running…

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  7. Last week I had lunch with a friend who has found herself in custody of her two middle school aged grandchildren. She was beating herself up because their pediatrician chided her for allowing them to drink tea in the morning (!!?) because caffeine is not good at the age.
    I stared in disbelief…she’s raised 3 children to adulthood. Surely the sit down with “G’ma” for a cup of tea before school in the morning has much more benefit than the bad effects of a cup of tea….I mean we’re talking tea…not redbull.
    The moral of the story….never let “perfect” become the enemy of “good enough”.

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  8. “looped film of motherly shortcomings”, got that in my head too.
    “avoid things you fear you cannot do perfectly”, got that one too and it explains why we still have the atrociously ugly curtains in our bedroom from when we bought the house over 20 years ago…just haven’t been able to find the perfect replacements.
    “they leave me feeling incompetent”, got that one too. Let’s not talk about how much of a complete and total failure I feel as a mother of two teens. I really, really should have considered boarding school for these kids. 🙂
    I can sew, but I sure can not express myself as eloquently or as kindly as you do and as a result I spend a part of every.single.day apologizing.
    We all have different talents.

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  9. And aren’t we glad that our gifts are not all the same gifts? I certainly have the perfectionist/avoidant trait, but one of the best antidotes I know is the principle of complementarity (which several commentators here are practicing). I am so grateful that some of us became Home Ec drop outs so that they could instead become pioneers of ordained ministry, biotechnical research, political activism. . . .
    Different gifts but the same spirit.

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