There are moments when my whole perspective can change in an instant. I believe these moments are referred to as “ah-hah” moments. Mutual of Omaha has capitalized on them with their commercials showing “ah-hah” moments to be magical and positive and followed by fulfilling our life’s purpose. My “ah-hah” moments are not always like that.
Take last week for example.
My oldest son and I were having a diplomatic struggle over his homework that lasted all afternoon. Everything I did I convinced myself I did for his own good. But later that night when he had the courage to tell me how the afternoon felt from his perspective, I realized I was really looking out for my own good. Ah-hah.
I was having trouble letting go of control. My son needs – and is appropriately ready for – making more of his own time-management choices in regard to homework. He doesn’t need my nagging.
What he needs is a little more freedom, and what I need to remember is that when he gets himself in a pinch and freaks out, he is not really telling me I am a bad parent (as I might interpret him to mean). He’s just learning, and learning is sometimes uncomfortable.
I recognized all of this as good. All steps in the right direction. But the problem was, my ah-hah involved a recognition that I had screwed up. That may not be a big deal to most people, but I am a recovering perfectionist. And parenting is the area I demand the highest and utmost perfection from myself.
My early years of motherhood were a sea filled with waves of guilt and feelings of failure. They have since diminished but not disappeared. Similar to my understanding of alcoholism, I will never claim I am recovered from my perfectionism but always in the process of recovery. Ah-hah moments like these – realizing my error in attempting to control when what my son needed was for me to let go – stir up those waters again.
Now, I have been in this recovery process for a few years and have learned a few things along the way. So I reminded myself that I am human and have my own process and the perfect parent does not exist. I told myself it’s okay, my son will live and God still loves me. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite do the trick.
This did not feel like the Mutual of Omaha commercials at all.
But then, a few days later, I had another moment. Less of an “ah-hah” and more of a quiet and very deep breathe. It was another day I got up ridiculously early and went to the gym. I did most of my workout at the basketball courts, which is often a treat because there are very few people who use the courts at 0-dark-thirty so my workout gets to double as alone time.
Afterwards, I was stretching. Call it endorphins if you like, but in that moment as my body was still and I listened to the lyrics of the soul-ful song echoing in the background, God’s love mysteriously washed over me. In a moment. Differently than when I told myself this truth, this time it somehow helped me accept myself in all of my imperfection.
And I realized that this is the celebration of Christmas. God coming to a tattered world in a bizarre and unexpected way…and loving in the midst of imperfection. I’m grateful that Christmas moments – when God and his love come near – aren’t sequestered away in the past but unfold continually, even on empty basketball courts. And they change my whole perspective…even more than the commercials.