Perfection is rarely the objective around here

Midlife Sentence | Perfection

Before you get into this, I just need to let you know this post started out different than it ended up.

That actually happens more often than you might think.

This is how it should go: I come up with some theme and then write a catchy lead, which flows into a full story, and there’s maybe a twist in there – could be funny or touching or shocking, with or without foul language – and things tidily come around at the end, which points back to the lead, and everything’s all wrapped up tight, like a 30 minute episode of Friends that you’ll forget by next week.

Or tomorrow. I don’t know how exciting your life is. Maybe you forget by mid morning.

But that’s not what happened.

This is how it started out: I was thinking about this phrase that one of my bosses used to use all the time. I looked it up, and the correct way to say it is “perfect is the enemy of good,” which makes a whole lot more sense than what she used to say.

What she’d do is change it around to say “good enough is the enemy of great,” which kind of also makes sense, considering she was a perfectionist and also fairly defensive about being a perfectionist (which is just the way of so many perfectionists). (If you’re feeling defensive about that statement, you might be a perfectionist).

So my boss, Janet, would utter her twisted little saying whenever she felt like I’d approached a project with less enthusiasm than she thought warranted. Which was pretty much how I live my life. Which probably tells you how much Janet and I just loved working with each other.

“You knoooow, good enough is the enemy of great,” she’d say in a chirpy voice … That’s not even a thing, Janet. Jeez.

In any case, I was thinking about the correct phrase – about perfect being the enemy of good – only because I was musing over one of my kid’s grades in school, and how completely nutso it makes me when one of them or the other completely biffs the chance for an easy A when there’s one to be had, not thinking about the future pre-calc or physics quiz that he’s going to biff for real and wish he had that PE grade to temper.

We all have a PE grade, somewhere, that once saved our bacon… Unless, of course, you’re Janet. Janet doesn’t need a PE grade to save her. Janet thinks bacon is bad for you.

In our case, there was some silly permission form that someone kept forgetting to bring home, and it was costing him an entire letter grade in one of those stupid-easy classes, and GOOD LORD this kind of stuff makes me crazy. Even talking about it gives me a facial tick.

Back in the day, there was no way for parents to track things like this. … And people were happy.

… Until the quarter ended and then said people were grounded. But then, in short order, people were happy again.

These days, I can look up where my kid is, what he is doing, and what kind of score he has whenever I bloody well feel like it. If I was a perfectionist, I could make us all absolutely crazy with the kind of information I have at my fingertips.

But THAT’S not what this blog is about, either.

It’s about how this line of thought led to another, which led me to wondering if there are areas where I am a perfectionist. Where my usual “good enough,” just isn’t.

Everybody’s a stickler for some things, right?

So, I thought and thought, and came up with a total of three areas where I’m pretty sure I’m a stickler:

  1. The dog poop bag. Seriously, that thing needs to be airtight or my morning run is not going to be good. I’ll spend a good twenty minutes going through our plastic bag stash to find the perfect one.
  2. Hospital corners. I don’t always make the bed (I’m usually the first one up), but when I do, it needs to be done right. I don’t want to sleep in wrinkles.
  3. Getting the groceries. This may fall under some kind of OCD problem, but I’m weirdly picky about where my groceries go on the checkout belt, as though placing the produce next to the meat is going to lead someone to pack my bags all wrong and the universe will turn completely upside down and everything will be chaos.

I put together this list and then I thought about it for a bit. It’s kind of sparse.

Anyway, back to the grade thing: every once in a while, someone circulates that one post where I talk about my good enough approach to parenting. It gets a lot of traffic. Most of the people who comment (on other, high traffic sites, not mine. You people aren’t very talkative) are kind, but there’s always that one mom who takes issue with the fact that I still, somehow have random bags of baby teeth in my house whose owner I can’t identify. I’m sure those teeth came from one of my kid’s mouths, but I don’t care enough to either identify the kid or throw the teeth away.

That one mom? She thinks I must be joking. No one in the world takes that approach to parenting. How could I be so laid back? I might not even be a real mom. No kidding. She actually said that.

I’ll bet her name is Janet.

Anyway, after mulling over how much oversight I have into my kids’ school performance and wondering about consequences, and sink and swim and all that, and remembering how I’m decidedly not a perfectionist in parenting, I posed the question to my family: What is one goofy, quirky, unexpected way you think I’m a perfectionist?

That got a laugh.

“I can’t think of anything, except you’re pretty perfectly never on time,” said my firstborn who was, unbeknownst to him, eating the last breakfast I’d ever make for his ungrateful ass.

“Uh,” Mike said, noticing my glower and probably thinking about how much he appreciated scrambled eggs. “You’re pretty particular about washing mirrors and windows,” he said, and then he brightened, “although it helps that you have lousy sight and can’t always see the streaks.”

I’m not sure he’s absolutely clear on how this game is played.

“Listen,” Mike said, as Jack scarfed down his food, unaware of how close he’d come to needing his jaw wired shut, “aren’t you glad you aren’t a perfectionist anyway? I mean, imagine the anxiety, living around here.”

He had a point.

Which is actually how this blog turned out to be exactly, and unexpectedly, to be what I meant it to be: about how Perfect is the real enemy of Good, and how Janet* was all wrong, and how Jack apologized to me later because he likes his scrambled eggs in the morning and was just trying to be funny anyway.

And I’m sorry if you were expecting an episode of Friends.

* I actually know a lot of nice people named Janet, just to clarify. It’s just that one Janet who cannot get her sayings right.

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