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My Son, My Teacher : The Day My Son Said Perfection is Overrated

  • Perfection is overrated. Let good be good enough. 
  • There is no such thing as perfection. Only appreciation. 
  • Perfection is only a matter of perspective because we are all going to make mistakes. Not everything will go according to plan. Yet, we can still say, "It was perfect!".
  • Kids learn perfection based on parent's expectations. 


Lucas did not exactly say those words. If you've been following my Mama Drama blogs, you probably know how dramatic I can be.

Anyway, here's a simple story...

Background (there has to be):

We don't buy Lucas expensive toys but he does own some.  He's got aunts, uncles, and godparents who don't see him often but are sure to spoil him when they do.

Anyway, his Ninang Jovi asked him what kind of toy he wants one time.  Lucas asked for a Bumble Bee Transformer toy.  Ninang Jovi went to Universal Studios and bought him a collector's item toy. Yeah, totally inappropriate for his age (4 years old)!

Since it was not designed to be played by children as young as Lucas. He found it hard to convert from car to robot and back again. Even I can't do it! Knowing that it's expensive made it all the more difficult to move the parts. I struggle even with the guidance of the manual and he knows that, so he only ask me once in a while to convert it.  Here it is:

Photo credit: David Williams/Bloomberg

See the picture? See what I mean?

Main story:

One day, he asked me to do it. Too lazy to get the box from storage, I tried without the manual.  Here's the result:

Conversation during dinner that day...

Lucas: Are you happy mommy?
Mom: Yes, of course! Why did you ask?
Lucas: Are you happy that you turned bumblebee to a car?
Mom: Yes baby. It's not perfect but it's not bad so I'm happy.
Lucas: Don't say that. Don't say it's not perfect.
Mom: Why?
Lucas: Don't say it's not perfect. If it's not too bad then it's not too bad... (I forgot what else he was saying. He was struggling to explain what he meant and I felt guilty right away. I knew one of my sermons is coming back at me again so I cut him off.)
Mom: Okay Lucas, I get it. But do you think it's perfect?
Lucas: It's perfect because you made it for me.
Mom: (speechless for a while) Lucas, you're so sweet! Thank you for saying that.

After that, I thought about that conversation and how much of it reflected how we live our lives. I remember one of the conversations with my mentor, he asked me how I felt about my performance. I said I felt a bit frustrated somehow because there are a lot more things I wanted to do.  And then he said, maybe I am putting too many expectations upon myself.  He's right. Sometimes I just don't know what is "enough". 

I am far from being a perfectionist though. I don't get frustrated with inaccuracy. I know when to be happy even when things fall apart.

But why did I say that? "It's not perfect but it's not bad so I'm happy."

Are we unconsciously always looking for perfection?  Just as the desire to be happy is always sought after, rather than to be sad?

And with that, are we always finding a reason to be happy anyway, even when the result expects us to be sad?

The dramatist Pierre Corneille said, "Just as we never taste happiness in perfection, our most fortunate success are mixed with sadness. So too we never taste sadness completely, as things could always be worse in some way and for this, we can be grateful."
Before my reflections go deep and I end up writing a long article again. Let's make this simple with the following key points, I'm sure you'll know what I mean.

  • There is no such thing as perfection. Only appreciation. I remember buying Lucas a Takara Tomy Buzzlight year toy for his birthday from Amazon. When it arrived, it was smaller than I expected, though it can talk in Japanese and English as promised. It was my fault for not checking out the original Disney toy. I was so disappointed, but he was not. I stupidly asked, "Do you like it even though you cannot fold its wings? Even though there is no helmet? Even though it doesn't have a laser beam?" I offered to buy him from Disney but he declined he was so happy with the gift.  He knows it was not perfect because he watched the toy review, yet he appreciated it, he's got a gift for his birthday.
  • Perfection is only a matter of perspective because we are all going to make mistakes. Not everything will go according to plan. Yet, we can still say, "It was perfect!". I remember our trip to Nikko when we ended up getting on the wrong train, missing trains, and waiting for a long time. There's also Christmas eve, where there were no open restaurants and the hotel serves a 5pm buffet dinner.  Was it something we wanted? No. Did we get a bit frustrated? Yes. But we can still say the trip was perfect!
  • Perfection is overrated. Let good be good enough. This bumblebee toy story is a "perfect" example.
  • Kids learn perfection based on parent's expectations. Why did Lucas had this kind of insight but not me? I'll give myself credit and say that of course, I have. They have a spelling test every Friday and I don't expect him to get perfect scores.  If he makes a mistake, we just practice some more.  During our practice lessons, he gets frustrated whenever he can't do things. I tell him it's okay, we just try again. The more we practice, the better he gets, and he knows that by now.  I will tell him to remember when you couldn't write or read but now your very good at it.  So now when I'm studying Japanese and sigh when I make a mistake, he will ask, "Did you make a mistake?"  I will just answer, "Yes, but I will try again."  I want him to always aim for progress and not perfection.
I'm sure you can apply this lesson from our simple story to yours. Be it love, life, travel, work, study.  Let me know how it goes?

We don't live in a perfect world but for those of us who are staying home, safe and healthy, the world should be more than good enough.  And if it really is just a matter of perspective, then when this pandemic is all over, we can finally say, "The world is perfect."

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