We’ve been knee-deep in questions lately. At four years old, Charlotte wants to know everything about everything.
I LOVE her curiosity and sharp memory. She really tries to delve down into the essence of any topic. However, the ongoing questions often cause me to realize that I am pretty clueless about the world in which I live. Or I know the answer but can’t explain it very well (especially when it’s, like, 6:30 am).
“What time exactly do skunks come out at night?”
“What does the word ‘theme’ mean?”
“Who are all of the characters in Batman?”
At the zoo, we saw a sign in front of the empty wolf cage that said the wolf was out for surgery. So she asked, “Can you tell me all the possible reasons that a wolf would have surgery?”
And this one was my absolute favorite:
She asked me if I played video games when I was a kid, so I said that I used to play a game called Super Mario Brothers.
Then she asked, “Can you tell me everything about Super Mario Brothers?”
So I replied, “Well, there were 8 levels…I think. And you had to rescue a princess…”
And then she said, “Can you tell me about all of the bad guys?”
I’m pretty sure there were about 500 bad guys in Super Mario Brothers. And most of them are hard to describe, like that brown mushroom thing that you jumped on…but I tried to tell her about every one I could remember.
Here’s the thing: Even though she’s the one asking the questions, she ends up teaching me more than I could ever learn on my own.
We were at my friend’s house this summer, and Charlotte wanted to try swimming in her pool. She is still very much learning how to swim. We practice every once in a while, but she’s just in the beginning stages of learning.
When she got in the water and wasn’t able to swim PERFECTLY, she freaked out. She bawled hysterically and said, “I want to do it! I want to swim!” She had only practiced a couple times and already wanted to be an expert.
I said, “Charlotte, you just started swimming, honey. It’s going to take some time to get really good.”
And she cried, “I don’t want to wait. I want to be perfect now.”
This is SO me. I want to be an expert at everything I do right off the bat. I get frustrated when I can’t master something after 2 seconds of trying. I don’t have a lot of fortitude in the face of adversity. After years and years and years of living like this, I am trying like heck to change. I don’t WANT to be a perfectionist. It holds me back. To me, being a perfectionist doesn’t mean being perfect at everything. It means fear of failure to the point where I won’t try new things unless I know I can succeed.
The strange part is that I was sure I hadn’t passed this down to Charlotte.
I’m conscious of this trait, so I don’t even utter the word “perfect.” I encourage her to just have fun. I am incredibly aware of this thing that I have — this drive for perfection — and how much it holds me back, so I am careful about everything I say to my kids in this regard.
Now that I’m learning more about genetics, I’m convinced that I’ve passed my traits down to Charlotte without even intending to. I think she got the perfection gene.
On the long drive back to our house, I tried to reiterate to Charlotte that she should just have fun and put in hard work and not worry about being perfect because, frankly, there is no such thing! I told her that it’s also ok not to be the best at everything. I was very proud of my speech! Life lesson #375 in the books!
Then she said, “Mom, have you ever not been the best at something?”
ARG ARG ARG. And, now, we turn it around on me.
I have such a hard time admitting the times when I’ve failed. These are certainly not my proudest moments.
But my pint-sized professor wanted an answer.
So I responded, “Sure, it’s happened a lot.”
“Can you give me an example?” came the voice from the back.
ARG. ARG. ARG.
Swallowing my pride, I cheerily said, “Of course! Let’s see…there was the time that I didn’t make the All State Band. That really hurt. But I also realized it was because I didn’t practice my scales.”
Phew. It was good to get that off my chest. And now we could move on to —
“Mom,” came the voice from the back. “Can you give me another example of a time you weren’t the best?”
I took a deep breath and put on a smile. “Sure! There was the time that I got a bad grade on an essay, and I was disappointed because I worked really hard on it.”
Ok, now for another topic —
“Mom…can you give me another example of a time you weren’t the best?”
My ego was officially crushed. For the hour long ride, I had to come up with every example I could think of. Charlotte wanted it all. A perfectionist doesn’t like to admit defeat, and I had to spell out all of the failings I could remember — in excruciating detail.
When we arrived back home, I thought about paying her for the therapy session. A teacher and a therapist in the same package!
Charlotte doesn’t just want to hear the talk. She wants me to walk the walk. If I tell her to just have fun and not worry about being the best, it’s meaningless. I have to show her how I’ve done it in my own life. And, gosh, I’m still working on that one.
What I love is that she’s the teacher as much as she’s the student. Her beautifully probing, curious questions get right to the core of who I am. And, for my pint-sized professor, I’ll do anything.