I can’t do it.
And with that, my spunky almost eight year old son, Caleb, threw down his piece of paper so carefully cut into a square. We had been sitting there, at the table, in the afternoon sun taking pieces of printer paper and carefully folding them into paper airplanes. His hands, his hands that haven’t gained the dexterity of mine, struggled to get the creases tight and the folds where they needed to be.
He’d look at mine. And I could see the frustration welling in his eyes.
Caleb, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Words from me, the mother that struggles with her own sense of perfection. I’m the one, who despite learning about letting go of perfectionism in Haiti, still apologized last week when a friend came to the door when my living room wasn’t spotless. But, I did let her in – so there’s a bit of progress – even though I did scoot the pile of books together and kick shoes over to the mat.
Caleb watches me. They watch me.
Caleb just fold it this way and push it down with your fingertips.
I can’t do it.
He wanted his plane perfect. He saw me, pressing down my corners, and doing the mountain folds and bending my paper into perfect shape. And then he saw his. Messy, in his eyes.
Caleb. I don’t want your plane to be perfect.
But, I do.
Those were the words he spoke. His almost eight years of living and he wanted perfection. The truth is, he has to learn, and in that learning it’s messy. It’s full of folds that don’t hit the corners and airplanes that when you launch them go straight to the ground and ripped corners and complete flops. But with each try, with each fold of the paper, the learning comes.
Caleb, I can never, and never will, make a paper airplane that’s perfect.
And I looked at him, that face still struggling with frustration over making that cool paper airplane that was supposed to loop, and I saw determination in him that was surprising. He grabbed another piece of paper, folded it over and started again.
That’s what we need to celebrate in our children. In our own lives.
It’s not the end, really. It’s not the airplane that flies perfectly and comes back to one that’s the goal. It’s the learning, the growing, the discovering what works and what doesn’t, the learning about self, the letting go of what needs to end – it’s the path that matters.
Motherhood is full of those moments. We can miss them shooting for the perfect ending and miss the beauty (mixed with frustration often) in the in-between. Those in-between moments are the ones where we and our children discover strength. Tenacity. Perseverance.
Maybe today your life is messy.
With folds that aren’t matching up and you’re sitting in your home feeling unappreciated or not valued. Maybe the kids are sassing back and defiant. Maybe the housework is taking over. Or there are bills breathing down your neck. Or maybe life is normal. Calm. And you’re tired of the monotony of the everyday. Or maybe it’s even fabulous and you don’t want to really talk about it because well, we don’t celebrate those moments. (I say do.) But, here’s the deal, no one’s life will look perfect by the time it’s finished.
The things that others will celebrate in your life and in my life and in the mom next door’s life aren’t the times where everything was easy. The moments that will be shared will be those moments when we wanted to throw the hypothetical paper airplane down and yet we gathered our strength and found our focus and tried again.
Perfection is a myth.
The real beauty, the real strength, comes in those moments when we simply keep going.
And he took his airplane, that to the world looking messy airplane, and he ran outside with it. And I watched him throw it into the humid July sky and as it flipped and soared he clapped.
It wasn’t perfect.
But, to him, it was beautiful.
Today, today, that’s what I celebrate in you. The not so perfect, messy folds, and torn corners parts of life that define motherhood strength.
They are the messy not perfect beautiful moments that matter.
Images and original content are sole property of Rachel Martin and may not be used, copied or transmitted without prior written consent.