Monday, 7 July 2014

Imperfect Perfection

With age, I have learned to appreciate the beauty of things that aren't quite the way I'd have planned them. Like when it starts to rain five minutes into a walk (pictured) or when a knitting pattern I'm working on doesn't turn out quite as I hoped. I'm trying to encourage the children to do the same.

Whilst My Boy likes routine and stability and knowing how things will work out, he will try new things when they are explained, and is willing to practice until he gets the result he's looking for. However Little Miss likes to do things 'right' from the start, and worries about making (inevitable) mistakes. In this regard they are very different.

I'll give you an example. In contrast to her chatterbox brother who was a very early talker, LM barely spoke a word for the longest time. She'd sit and listen to everything, and although she knew what was being said (she'd laugh in all the right places, follow instructions perfectly and so on) she would hardly utter a word. Then one day she literally started talking all at once. She went from asking for "chocolocle" on her toast one day (when pressed to provide an answer), to the next day saying "Nutella, please Mummy" - I kid you not! I almost fainted! 

Whilst her perfectionist traits have resulted in amusing additions to our family-lore, it means that she can be hard on herself, and her school teachers don't see how much she is learning or what she is capable of. We had months of practicing her numbers - identifying and writing them, counting, simple addition and subtraction. She knows and understands them at home but at school it's a different matter. Failing to demonstrate her understanding (through lack of certainty), her teacher thinks she doesn't get it. This is getting easier as her confidence grows, but I can't help thinking it must be a burden for a 5 year old. 
Imperfect perfection (collaborative art with Little Miss, aged 5)
One of the exercises in the Journaling book I mentioned recently was to make a note that a 'done something' is better than an 'imperfect nothing' and with this in mind (and at the front of my notebook!) I'm on a mission to demonstrate that it's fun to enjoy the doing, and perfectly fine to make 'mistakes'. We have started with art, because there isn't a 'right' or 'wrong' and on Saturday we spent several hours doodling and painting together in her (out-of-date) filofax. It was great fun and gave us time to chat about things too - which we both enjoyed.

She really liked her finished picture (99% of which she drew herself, and I painted - imperfectly)... but I had to give her a plain bound notebook afterwards - she didn't like the fact that there were other things on the page. I can understand that. So now she has her own Muji passport-sized notebook which she's decorated with stickers and washi tape and is drawing lots of perfectly imperfect things in. That's definitely something for the Memory Keeper's box!


  1. Oh this really struck a note with me. I've always been very much like your daughter. Nothing has ever seemed good enough. This is why I have only part of one sock knitted (following your instructions) as I started it three times. Your instructions are great, I think I may be a little OCD :) I hope the artwork gives your daughter the opportunity to experiment and enjoy being 5. Have a lovely week.
    Ali xx

  2. Ah. The perfectionist. I have those. The elder puts a lot of pressure on herself because everyone thinks she's so smart. The little one is self conscious of her stuff ams easily cries if she feels she's not good at it. Only through time and reassurances will they grow more confident. This journaling sounds like the right kind of summer therapy for Little Miss.

  3. I have a few perfectionist's to and one of the hardest things is boosting their confidence in themselves, this journaling sounds like a great way to show LM that mistakes can be not only pretty but we can learn so much more from them.


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