Letting go of perfect in a toddler’s world

Letting go of perfect | salmonatseven.comI’m kind of a perfectionist. I wouldn’t say that I’m a Type A+ perfectionist, because I get over mistakes and errors pretty darned easily. But I will agonize over getting something done right. Sometimes questioning my decision after the fact for hours.  But you can’t be a perfectionist as a mom. It’s not possible. It’s not sane to expect. Letting go of it is tough.

All in all, I’m actually a type B+, or on an A- depending on the day. I’m not the high-maintenance driven Type A personality, but I’m also far from the total “go with the flow” Type B girl. I need order. And I need a plan… but there’s wiggle room in it all.

I find this is true in my work, certainly. But on nearly any work project, you can fix and re-fix something a number of times before the final draft is turned in or sent out. Words can be massaged and numbers re-adjusted and re-checked.

It’s tough to be a perfectionist as a parent. For so many reasons.

You don’t get do-overs in parenting. Once you’ve reacted or said something, you can’t take it back. For good or bad. Those little eyes see everything and they’ve got your number and figure out which of your buttons to push faster than they can spill your last glass of wine on the floor. (Hint: that’s fast. Very fast.) Or once their now-sweet little lower lip trembles, it’s all over and your heart breaks with theirs. (Hint: they may have been trying to bring you a glass of Mommy’s juice that Daddy had left on the counter for 5 seconds.)

As a consummate planner, it’s hard to start letting go of the end goal. I’ve always had contingency plans for my contingency plans… and totally never cared how we got from point A to point B, as long as we got there. And man, the path sometimes went in circles and over hills, but we always arrived at our destination. Whatever destination it was. Doing anything with a toddler is a lesson in letting go of that.

There are a number of life lessons that I find myself learning again and again every few years. Each time I kick myself for not knowing better, that perhaps I shouldn’t always give people the benefit of the doubt. Or that perhaps I shouldn’t x, y or z.

Letting go of the plan and the journey seems to be one of those lessons I’m destined to re-learn. However, in the case of the toddler, I need to re-learn every few weeks. In part, because that’s how often my toddler’s rules change.

The Toddler. Is. In. Charge. Always.

Lest I forget.

But I also need this lesson regularly because I regularly revert to my “old” ways of making plans for how I expect the day, the week, or the hour to go.

This goes for everything. Even things I plan for his benefit.

Expensive gymnastics class? Who needs skills when we can run in circles and play with the water fountain?

A nice hike with friends? Let’s sit down and draw in the dirt with sticks!

Exploring the zoo on one of it’s busiest days? Let’s run from Mom and get lost in the crowds of kids!


Letting go of the end goal is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He drives me crazy, and I’m sure I make him crazy too. It’s all worth it though.

Despite the chaos, and the overuse of the word “no,” and the selective hearing, I am finding toddlerhood more fun than I ever expected. Because toddlers are insane and spontaneous, and you never know what’s coming. It could be a burst of tears over Mommy wearing the wrong shirt or a burst of song (his current favorite is a death metal/screamo rendition of “Let it Go;” I think we have a hit on our hands). Because he still finds endless comfort in snuggling with me, on the occasions that I can catch him.

He’s becoming his own person more each day, and it’s so much fun to see him exert his person-hood and his personality, even if the opinions aren’t always so welcome. When friends have little babies who don’t crawl yet, and they stay wherever you set them down, I get a little jealous. But then I look at my own smart, sweet, active boy who rarely is still and am so glad that we have so much fun together.

Letting go is hard

It’s tough to be a perfectionist in a toddler’s world, but I’m learning to let go of perfect. I could be strict with bedtime, and perhaps I should set some firmer boundaries, and stick to my guns a little better. But, I love the giggle fests we have. I love how his laughter is completely unguarded and that he hasn’t learned to worry about what others think yet. I love watching his eyes light up when we wrestle around or have tickle-fests. I know he’ll go to sleep eventually, but I love when it’s a fun experience for us both.

I am learning to start letting go of the trail I wanted to explore on my hike, and instead learn about the different textures of dirt and mud and rocks. About seeing the way that some sticks float while others sink. About learning that it’s just as much fun to throw mud in the water as it is to throw a stick. That splashing in the water is loads more fun than staying dry. And sometimes he surprises me, and we make it to the destination and beyond.

But, I’m learning to let go of the destination completely. A small part of my inner perfectionist and planner cringes every time, but I have so much more fun every time I do. Not only am I not fighting my toddler on something, but we’re both having a total blast.

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