Perfect pressure - FamilyEducation

Perfect pressure

October 24,2008
Skaddadle
Todd Lieman
In my quest to find the “now” in things, I’m discovering that (for me) any anxiety or stress that I feel is often rooted in the (self-appointed?) pressure to be great. The pressure to be perfect. Whether it's the pressure of being the perfect boss, the perfect dad, or even the perfect blogger, this pressure comes internally and, if I think I’ve missed perfection, it manifests itself in ways that may be…let’s just say less than pleasant.

K-Man and I have been enjoying a significant amount of time together these last few days. It’s been relaxed. (Even if he’s not sleeping as much, which of course means that I’M not sleeping as much!) I haven’t felt this burning need to get him up and out to school by whatever time. I haven’t felt (like I usually do) that if he’s not at school by 9:00 – that he’s going to miss something, or worse –  that I’LL be late to work. It’s this pressure to be at point A or point B. And, it’s this pressure that I handle K-Man in such a way that he never cries. It all comes from me.

As I think about all the times that I’m impatient, quick to judge, or whatever…if I’m REALLY honest about it – it’s rooted in this annoying pressure to be perfect. I think we’re quick to rip on other people (or I am) because I’m transferring my own insecurities and self-judgments to them. So, as I try to be more aware of these feelings and these issues from within, I’m also aware of how this affects my ability to be “the perfect dad.”

It’s easy for me to say that nobody’s perfect. As every parent with or without a blog has written or said – we ALL have “those days.” We all have days when, frankly, we’re horrible parents. The key, I think, is to figure out how to minimize those days. And the key to THAT, I think, is to figure out where “those days” are coming from. It seems to me – at least for me – that if I can identify where the stress, anxiety, impatience or "bad parenting" is coming from…more often than not, it goes away!

This morning, for example, despite the fact that K-Man and I were having a nice time easing into our day, he started to have a bit of a meltdown. I responded impatiently. Why? Because I thought that his meltdown would make me late to work, which might make me late for a conference call and…so on. As soon as I figured out that I could simply push the call back a few minutes – there was nothing to worry about. It was this pressure of being perfect: My client is expecting me at this time and I can’t be late…and…and…and. So, I simply shot off a quick email, pushed back the call and peace was restored. (Funny thing, too – we also all know that kids pick up on our vibe: The more stressed I am, the more likely K-Man is to melt. Take away my stress…take away his stress.)

Stress, anxiety and impatience are horrible brothers. In a way, these feelings are something of a fraternity. Our parents felt them and passed them along to us and, in many ways, we pass them along to our kids. I don’t know if there’s any possible way to live a completely stress-free life. I’m not sure anyone has the kind of perspective it must take to see the lesson in everything and appreciate every experience for what it is, as opposed to what we think it's supposed to be. (Okay, the most practiced of monks, I suppose. The Dali Lama, I suppose.) We are, after all, only human.

I, for one, however, don’t want to pass along the need for perfection and the stress that comes with it. I don’t want K-Man to be afraid of making a mistake, or fearing the “repercussions” that come with whatever. Just live, baby! I read a story today about a group of high-school students in California that stole the SAT test, or at least got a look at it, the day before it was to be administered. Kids and parents were interviewed for the story and, in the end, it all came down to pressure. One mom said that the pressure the kids feel is so overwhelming, it sometimes drives even the best of them to questionable decisions.

In the long run, I don’t really care if K-Man can hit a curveball or a high note. I just want him to live a life that’s free of the day-to-day stresses that I often feel. I want him to open his eyes every single day with wonder, with gratitude and anticipation. And, if he does start to stress, it then becomes important to help him learn to identify where the stress is really coming from, and help him understand how to make it disappear. There’s no need to be perfect. There’s no need to put undo stress on ourselves to be right all of the time. The best we can do is the best we can do – and sometimes that’s better than others.

And right now…that’s perfectly okay.