Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The imperfections of perfectionism
Ah, the joys of being the perfectionist parent to a perfectionist child! (That statement is dripping in sarcasm, just so you know.) We're now in the throes of preparing Ellie for Kindergarten. Her school sent home their monthly class update last week and in it was a reminder to keep working on teaching our address, last name, phone number, birthdate and all that good stuff. You know, the things parents want their children to know so they can be returned if they're lost. Let's just say, Ellie wasn't exactly in the know.
I remember teaching Madeline all of this stuff four years ago. I also remember her reciting my name, our address, our phone number and a litany of other things that were personal information while we stood in line at the bank, and the post office, and Target and while walking through the mall. Yeah, sometimes I think it would be better to just leave the kids in the dark. I am grateful that we're not required to teach our kids our social security number, garage door code, and bank account number. If we did, I can assure you that we would have been the victim of identity theft many times over.
Ellie is my stubborn kid who learns what she wants to learn on her terms. She's a perfectionist. I didn't recognize this obvious trait until a few months ago. You would think that I would have picked up on this about three years ago since I'm a perfectionist, but clearly I'm oblivious at times. I've been saying she's the perfect child for me for years, but I never realized it was because she's very much like me. The problem with having a perfectionist as a child is she isn't necessarily willing to try something more than once if she isn't assured that she will execute the task perfectly the first or second time around. This is something that makes me want to bang my head against a wall. I am the kind of perfectionist that will keep doing something over and over until I perfect it. I'll get frustrated and angry along the way, but I don't lose sight of the end goal. Ellie on the other hand, is the laid back perfectionist. She wants perfection but she certainly doesn't want to waste her time trying to master something if she can just abandon it and move on to something else.
I have to say that I was stunned when Ellie learned our address in the span of a few minutes. Then she picked up our phone number in a snap. Birthday? I don't think I got to take a breath before she had that banked in her little steel trap of a memory. Last name, was a little tricky. Ellie wasn't willing to acknowledge it at first. I suspect she doesn't like it. It wasn't until I assured her that all of us had that as our last name that she finally agreed to own it. And it's not like we have some awful last name that's hard to say, it's a short one syllable last name. So we have it all covered. Phone number, address, name, parent's names, and birthdate. What we're missing is the ability to spell and write Elisabeth. She goes by Ellie. Ellie is what she reads, writes and spells with ease. She can recognize Elisabeth when it's written, but she does not like writing it, and she does her best to resist learning how to spell it. It's frustrating, and it aggravates me that we're almost able to check all of this off the list, but Ellie just won't comply. So her perfectionism and mine are both frustrated as a result. Obviously, one of us is going to have to bend here, and I have a feeling it's not going to be me. I have no intentions of legally changing her name to Ellie for her convenience.
I'm hoping she will comply soon and have her name issues out of the way. In the meantime, I will continue to parade around with my daughter who is now happily telling everyone where we live, what our phone number is and what our names are. I'm proud of her for learning everything so fast, but this is one phase I certainly don't care like very much. Aside from the random divulging of personal information to perfect strangers, this stage also brings with it the sting that in less than nine months my baby will be leaving me five days a week. Kindergarten wasn't a big deal for me when Madeline started because I had a toddler at home. But this September will be lonely. I'll find myself at home alone with Mr. Furkins for 6 hours a day. Sure, I'll probably enjoy the silence and the immaculately kept home, but I know I'll be missing Ellie.