Me? Perfect? Perish the thought

for The Brooklyn Paper
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I’ve given up perfection for Lent. I’m Jewish, but growing up with tons of Catholics, I keep what I’d give up in mind, and perfection is an easy mark. It is impossible to achieve, like reaching the front wall from the back of the Bikram yoga studio.

So it just makes sense, for me, for my kids, for my husband, for all our friends and neighbors and family, that it should go.

And just in time, because my boys are quickly figuring it out.

“You’re not perfect, mom,” Oscar said from behind me, as he held Ginger’s orange leash in his hand. The dog looked up at me sympathetically, as she always does, and he added quickly, to quell my competitive concern, “I mean, neither is dad. No one is perfect.”

He’d reached this conclusion because I’d forgotten something. Maybe I put his already-late homework in Eli’s backpack by mistake, or not washed his sweatpants in time for gym. Whatever it was, it was less important, really, than the fact that this opinion had so easily and unconcernedly been shared.

I first seized up defensively, briefly, before a great whoosh of calm came over me as I realized what this meant.

Suddenly, as quickly as those words came out of his mouth, I was off the hook.

There was no longer a need to keep up pretenses. I could end the charade.

Something about this particular nonchalant comment about my flawed character, made me want to sing praise to the heavens. Yes! I thought. I did it!

Some of you might be wondering why I’d be so happy to be discovered imperfect. Some of you might be saying “How hard could it be for him to figure? One look at you and he’d have known…”

But this wasn’t really about me. The comment spoke volumes about Oscar’s own perspective, and his great ability, at 9, to create clear and realistic expectations.

He now expects I will forget to make his lunch, so he has learned to like more of the “healthier” options the Wellness Committee has served up. He’ll even make his own lunch if he wants it.

And he clearly expects that I will be late sometimes for early Friday dismissal, then forget about the dog tied to the schoolyard gate when I do remember, then forget I’ve brought no cash or card for snacks, then find cash in my pocket from the forgotten lunch money I’d been carrying around to give the office.

It is clear.

I’m glad my fall from grace came this early. It makes all of us far less stressed. Now that the secret is out, I don’t have to wipe every crumb off every surface.

I want my kids to aim high, but not too high.

I want them to know that I try, but that if it comes down to knocking myself and others out to get to the top, to appear utterly flaw-free, well, I’ll probably just retreat to the bath, pour in some lavender oil and eucalyptus salts, light some candles (and maybe something else), and retreat.

As we walked in, and up the hallway stairs, I told Oscar straight up, “Good you realize that now,” I said. “That’ll save you a ton of money in therapy later.”

Maybe. Hopefully.

But, then again, maybe not. No one’s perfect.

Everyone needs help. Even a 9-year-old knows that.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on
Posted 12:00 am, February 14, 2013
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