Without a doubt, being a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done. Giving of myself when I am tired, or sick, or in desperate need of quiet is a daily challenge. But, the lessons I have learned from my boys are the greatest gifts I have ever been given.
On our beach vacation this year, my youngest son taught me a valuable lesson about perfection. The beach where we vacation is great for kids – white sand, low surf, small crowds. But, it’s a little lacking in the shell department. There are a few good ones discovered on each trip, but for the most part they are broken and bleached out by the time they make it to shore. That doesn’t stop us from looking though.
On this particular day, I was standing in knee deep surf with my son and skimming the sand beneath for the perfect shell.
“Look at this one, Mom!”
“No, that one’s broken.”
“Ooh, this one’s pretty.”
“Yes, but look – it has a hole.”
This went on for five minutes or so before I finally had enough sense to slow down and pay attention to what was going on. I was looking for the perfect shell, one that would excite and surprise my little explorer. I was getting more and more focused, and more and more frustrated with each failure. My son, however, was taking each shell (or piece of shell) as it came. He found something beautiful and exciting in each of them. He didn’t need the perfect shell – he was already excited and surprised, even in the midst of all the flawed shells at his feet.
How often, I wondered, do I react this way? How often do I miss the really, really good in my quest for the perfect. How often do I dismiss the beautiful things in my life because I have judged them somehow flawed? How many times have I failed to appreciate my success or the strengths of those around me because they were incomplete or not up to my standards? And, maybe more importantly, what has all that demand for perfection gotten me?
That’s the problem with seeking perfection. On our quest to get there, we miss a lot and we do real damage. To ourselves and those around us. We tell ourselves that all the striving, the pushing, the demanding is constructive. But nothing could be further from the truth. The unending quest for perfection keeps us trapped in a loop. It keeps us tense and stressed. It leads to frustration and a sense of never quite measuring up.
So today take time to notice the things in your life that are special. The things that you’ve missed or dismissed because they weren’t perfect. The people you’ve sold short because they somehow didn’t fit your mold. Celebrate a success of your own that you’ve never celebrated before because it wasn’t big enough or important enough to matter. The best things in our life aren’t always perfect, but if we pay attention we may just find we have more than we realize.