A Whole Lot of Good Enough

I saw a little girl the other day wearing a “Little Miss Perfect” T-shirt. And I thought: I wouldn’t let my child wear that T-shirt unless it were worn with irony.  Children don’t really inspire irony, though, or do they? So I started to think of other potential t-shirts I could live with:

  • Little Miss Good Enough
  • Little Miss Trying Really Hard But Not Quite Making It
  • Little Miss Almost There, Maybe?
  • Little Miss Imperfect
  • Little Miss Only Human

Because I guess I’ve always had issues with the idea of telling a child that he or she is perfect, or “the best.” Owen is my favourite boy, but he’s going to have to grow up with the knowledge that he’s fallible.

And I guess I have some doubts about this philosophy, but for now, at least, I’m sticking with it. I’ve encountered too many students with an irritating sense of entitlement, who don’t believe they can do wrong. I don’t know whether their parents held them accountable for their actions or whether they were told they were perfect – maybe it’s just a personality trait – but it is not a personality trait I want to foster in my child.

Owen is slowly learning to make intelligible sounds, and it’s a joy to watch him differentiate between them, but one of the things I didn’t expect was to have to correct him. He gets “Dada” right most of the time now, but his “Mama” is a cross between “Baba” and “Rararara” – so he gets a lot of “No” and a (very smiley) correction. But Owen doesn’t like to be wrong. Occasionally, after he’s been corrected, he makes a bizarre sound like a cross between a laugh and a cough, as if to cover up the fact that he made a mistake. And I certainly understand the impulse to tell him he’s done really well, even though the sound coming out of his mouth is completely wrong.

And I feel silly even bringing this up, but it’s been preoccupying me lately: how to teach him (over the long run) his strengths and his limitations.

If anyone has any ideas to share, I’d love to hear them.

Little Miss Trying Really Hard But Not Quite There Yet

5 comments on “A Whole Lot of Good Enough

  1. Molly on said:

    Your mom sent me to your blog after meeting me on etsy when she made me some puppets for my husband and my son. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a fan of blogs. Continuing in this vein, I’ve only read one or two and they were all good and I’m not sure why I have maintained my biased and baseless opinion. One thing I’ve never done is responded to one which might lead you to ask why I am now. Well, this post moved me.

    I’m also a new mom. My Oliver is 17 months old yesterday and boy can I relate to your worries and questions. I also agree wholeheartedly to your sentiments about entitled children who think the sun rises and set for and on them and them alone. I will say, however, that it’s probably ok to celebrate the work that moves us along even when we don’t necessarily get it right the first time. My personal favorite, or at least the phrase that pops out of my mouth the most often is “Good try Bug, get up and try it again”. A little pride, a little encouragement, a little indication that they’re not quite there. A balance? perhaps.

    Regardless, I look forward to reading more of your comments and thoughts! I’m certainly pleased that I’ve met your mom!

    Sincerely, Molly

  2. admin on said:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Molly! I think our approaches to parenting are similar – I think the idea of “getting up and trying again” is one of the best lessons we can teach – because life is full of mistakes and mishaps, but it’s so important not to get bogged down.

  3. Maggie on said:

    Well… I will try and describe what I’ve seen in school. Schoolteaching and parenting are different, but their spheres overlap. So if something I say applies to your parenting – great. And if not – discard!

    1) You have asked the right question. That’s the most important thing.

    2) Be open to your child and express that openness to him habitually. Allow him to surprise you with his talents and the different facets of his personality. Be aware that he is discovering himself and may not know how to articulate the connection he feels to his developing abilities. Teach him words he can use to describe these aspects of himself with dignity, integrity and humility.

    3) Let him know, in no uncertain terms, that mistake-making is a vital part of fulfillment. Achievement is ALWAYS on someone else’s terms: the person who created the award or set the grade standard. Fulfillment is totally different. Every child know the difference between a reward they earned and one they were handed. No one is truly invested unless they have tried, misstepped, and tried again – with new appreciation and knowledge. They should not be afraid to make mistakes. But they should be encouraged to USE that mistake well – to honour the experience fully by learning everything they can from it.

    4) Tell him that hard work is, contrary to some idiotic contemporary phrasing, very satisfying. Hard work is not a mundane task with a mundane conclusion. That’s not work – it’s a chore. Everyone does chores. Everyone needs to. That’s fine. But hard work is something different. But it is HARD to become a four-star rock musician. It is HARD to become an athlete. It is HARD to become a wonderfully supportive caregiver, or a precise researcher, or creative chef. And it is WONDERFUL.

    5) Above all, stress that your love will support him as he fulfills as much as himself as possible. You can’t make his abilities bloom for him. The glorious thing is that only he can seize his chances. But you can teach him how to firm up his grip on them.

  4. Maggie on said:

    * to number 2: I SHOULD have written:

    “Teach him words he can use to describe these aspects of himself with dignity, integrity, humility and happiness.”

    JEEZ! Can’t leave out that last one. :)

  5. admin on said:

    Thank you for saying so articulately what I have been thinking about both teaching and parenting. Your students sound lucky to have you. I might just use your words about hard work this term.

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