Self-critical

When Jackie got a failing grade in her math test, and she was probably a bit embarrassed as she didn’t tell me about it right away, when I asked her about her results her attitude of nonchalance made me question her ability to grasp the gravity of the situation. “Meh, I got an F. That’s ok.” To which I I responded that even though I don’t care about top grades, I care about her ability to understand and grasp the information she learns at school. But because her attitude was off, like didn’t match the reality, I had a talk that may have come across as a lecture.

I did explain why “the talk”. Her attitude was off. Expressing remorse or concern or sadness or embarrassment … all these would be more appropriate than “I don’t care”.

I have higher standards for myself and my inner voice is critical up to the point of deciding to take action and then I embrace my imperfection. I do my part the best I can and I accept the outcome. I have failed many exams, like my driving exam at 18, and my high school admission. And I remeber in my sullen moments, my parents didn’t pile on any of their disappointment or advice. They were quiet, giving me space. But I think I made a point to race them to how I honesty felt about it. So they didn’t have to drag me there with their disappointment or concern. My communication skills protected me from extra burdens.

With Jackie we made up and we communicate better now. She tells me straight up about her grades and we work on stuff together, like certain homework or preparing for big tests.

Now Conrad is a different story. Today he forgot my insurance card at the pharmacy. He makes such inconsequential mistakes and I admit I have higher expectations of him. The pharmacy called him to let him know and he told me right away. My face apparently expressed utter disappointment. I was confused. “How can you forget my card?” He was flustered with too many cards he had to keep track of.

I am doing my usual thing, reflecting on my attitude and my facial expressions and my words. I wish I would say instantly: “that’s ok, no problem” but my natural reaction is to question one’s presence of mind.

If it was me who made a mistake I would probably fret over it, attempt to fix it right away and try to do better. It is an anxiety inducing mindset, this analyzing a mistake, although it produces the fruit of paying more attention and avoiding making the same mistakes.

It is possible that I am the one with the issue (of perfectionism), not my husband and not my kids. It would be all right if their choices wouldn’t affect me directly. Like we all live with the consequences of our mistakes and we try to repair as needed. There is incredible power in the grace a family member offers in the time of need. Like making an extra trip to help out someone who forgot something, and not say a word of admonition about it, other than “I’m so glad we have the means to take care of this unexpected issue. I’m happy to help. It’s not a big deal.” The thing is, the one doing the fixing is the one who has the right to say it’s not a big deal, not the one who caused the trouble. “Can you come bail me out? It’s not a big deal.” The one receiving the blessing is not in the position to assess the inconvenience of the one going out of their way to help. And how much more willing is a helper next time to help a grateful person!