Learning how to NOT be perfect

Every singer has their strengths and weaknesses, the same way every person does, and every voice teacher I’ve ever had has tried to get me to loosen up. I’m always trying to play my voice like a piano, controlling every note and every breath. The funny part is I do my best singing when it feels “sloppy”. For me, it takes a lot of trust to let go enough to let a run, run.

I have written about my fear of failure, and how my 30s gave me ample opportunity to practice falling down. What I didn’t know is how much I would learn every time I disappoint myself, and that I am always more disappointed than anyone else around me. I struggle with this in parenting, as I reassess my choices every day. I wonder if I took the right approach, or I learn something about a situation later that makes me wish I had handled it differently in the moment.

I remember how crushed I was as a kid in those moments, getting punished for something I didn’t do or being accused of doing something on purpose that was an accident. It didn’t matter that I had done the same thing on purpose 10 times that week! The injustice always rankled. Now that I find myself on the parent’s side of that equation, I wince just a little bit more when I find out I misinterpreted something.

To top it off, I am raising a little perfectionist. One of my kids has taken to saying “it’s just all my fault!” when they screw up. We’ve explained that kids screw up, and all adults screw up. We give examples, we apologize when we’re wrong, and we always talk about learning from mistakes. But how do you help kids learn that making the mistakes themselves is OK and not a reflection of their worth?

I wish I could wrap this up with a pat answer, with our proven three-step technique for helping kids be OK with experiential learning. Obviously, parenting isn’t that tidy. I order more parenting books, hold the child in question until we both feel better, and come up with secret code words and temper challenges for both of us. This week, when we are angry and frustrated with ourselves, we will both be hopping like bunnies. Don’t judge me! It may not be the solution of my choosing, but it does sound like a kids version of singing “messy”. And after all, wouldn’t it be great if the next generation could learn that lesson a few decades earlier than their mom?

Update: I wrote this post months ago, and didn’t feel quite ready to post it. I’m going to be honest – this fall was NOT FUN for anyone in this household. Since January of this year, we have watched our school kids blossom: Tess, our super reader who is showing restraint and maturity that boggle my mind; Remy, who’s constantly getting kudos from his teacher for being an excellent speaker and has fallen in love with skiing, and Lilou, who is the kindest 4 year old I’ve ever seen, watching out for some kids in her class who need the love. And not despite but because of the tough fall, Dave and I are unashamedly bursting with pride at their strides forward. Now don’t get the wrong idea! We still hold our breath on plenty of occasions, praying the momentum will carry us through a challenge. But we witness progress on the perfection of accepting flawed humanity with a lot more regularity. The kids may use skiing analogies for falling down and getting back up, but they for sure are getting the idea.

And as for me? I heard the recording of my most recent concert this week. While I didn’t sing with as much courage as I would have liked, it got fairly messy in there. So maybe I’ve learned something too. Go figure.

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