Yesterday I went to one of my not-so-favorite places. The dentist. To all you dentists out there ... please don't take offense. :) It's not a terrible experience, but I don't rate it up there with, say, Disney Land or the a trip to the Grand Canyon ... or even dinner and a movie.
In the past several years I have become much more diligent in my dental appointments, mainly due to a dreadful bout of gestational periodontal issues when I was pregnant with Ashley. Don't ask me why my gums would be affected by my growing belly, but they were. Eight months pregnant and an ouchy mouth ... and the threat of pre-term labor is not a great combo. Unfortunately, my body didn't want to be normal and I have continued to have some mouth problems due to hormones and nursing. Again ... what's the connection? Who knows?!?
Anyway, due to this history, I have become quite faithful to flossing daily and brushing my teeth regularly. Why would I go into such lovely detail for you? Because yesterday my hygienist pointed out not one, but TWO cavities! I have not had a cavity since I was six years old ... and it was in a baby tooth! I don't think we even did anything about that one ... we just let it fall out seeing as it was already wiggly. And the crazy thing is that, because of my current mouth-recovery-program, I have been going to the dentist every 4 months ... which means these two developed pretty quickly. I have been assured by the dentist that they are small and will be easy to fill, but it's still not something I'm looking forward to. And add to that the cost! Gulp...
To add insult to injury, I had to go home and tell my kids. My kids who brush their teeth haphazardly, floss minimally and yet, who between their 80 teeth, have no problems. Grrrr.... Now don't get me wrong, I don't want my kids to have cavities. I am literally quite surprised that we haven't had any yet, but I have celebrated right along with them when they get their "Yahoo!" and their Red Robin dinner card. It just didn't seem fair. :(
Then, last night as I was putting the older kids to bed, I had an epiphany. At bedtime we share "Our Best & Our Leasts" of the day. This is a great time to check in with each other and hear about any high-lights or low-lights. The kids typically share about times with friends, either good or bad; things they got to do or things they missed out on. Sometimes we get real insight into their days ("So-n-So was kinda mean to me today.") and sometimes we just get complaints ("My least is we didn't have any dessert.") Last night, after the kids had shared, it was my turn. I shared that my best part was having Daddy home for the day and getting to have dinner together. My bummer was my cavities. Aaron shook his head, a mixture of disbelief and disappointment. Norah's eyes almost came out of her head. The look of shock on her face was incredible ... and a little unexpected. She stuttered, "How many times do you brush your teeth?" I replied that I thought I was pretty careful and responsible to brush and floss well. And then I added, "But, you can only do your very best ... and that's why we go to the dentist. We do our part and he does his." This is where the epiphany came in.
Here was a perfect teachable moment to talk to my kids about failure, about not quite measuring up, about missing the mark, about being unsuccessful ... and about it not being the end of the world! Somehow (and unintentionally, we promise!) Brett and I have managed to raise four perfectionist kids. Each in their own ways, our kids set unbelievable standards for themselves and sometimes we have to walk through the wreckage of mistakes and missed-marks.
Last week Aaron was in tears about getting 18/19 on his spelling test. He had mis-heard his teacher say the word "when" and wrote "win" instead. A little ironic, no? That didn't feel like a win for him, even when I hung his spelling test on the fridge.
Norah is super particular about everything and I have some real concerns about future ulcers with her. :) She regularly gets worked up about being late to gymnastics or school, forgetting her library books and making sure everybody else is walking the fine line she is.
Ashley is a bit more laid back, but she definitely beginning to show some signs of perfectionism. Lately we have been working on learning to write the ABC's and if she makes a mistake she will painstakingly erase every evidence of the slanted "H" or the squashed "e". Whew ... she can be quite particular.
Even little Lydia can be a bit picky about things needing to be just right. She has been known to walk into a room, notice something different and exclaim, "Uh-Oh!" She also loves to play with her shape-sorter and she will get rather frustrated if she has trouble getting them in the right slots in her usual speedy fashion. I guess we start early wanting everything to be just so.
In light of these observations, Brett and I have tried to show the kids that inevitably we will each mess up and when we do, the world doesn't come to a screeching halt. As much as we talk about this fact, however, there's nothing quite like a real life example to show them the truth ... hence my cavity caveat! :)
I'm glad that God opened my eyes to see this perfect opportunity to model to my children how to face a failure: Extend a little grace to myself, try a little harder to make it right and move on. This is also a perfect reminder to me that my kids are watching me all the time to see how I will react in all of life's situations. I hope to be a good role-model for my kids. And of course, when I mess that up ... I'll have yet another perfect opportunity to show them how I handle that, too!