In appraisals at work I’ve always been called a perfectionist. It seems an odd thing to criticise someone for but I’ve accepted it with good grace, and didn’t ram the phone on the desk up their arse, or stick their tie in the electric shredder while holding their face close to the whirring steel blades.
A perfectionist? If this is the only criticism you can level at me for getting the job done on time, within budget, to the standards required, to a high degree of professionalism and with nay fuss or bother, then fine. No, really. That’s fine.
But to be called a perfectionist so many times weighed on my mind a bit. Did I expect others to work in the same way? Is this too much to expect? There’s no such thing as perfect, and I know that, so calling me a perfectionist is a bit of a stupid thing to say. I’ve never delayed a job or project being this way. I have high standards of myself. That’s all.
But I saw the sense in what had been said in my last job, as a SAHD.
When I was a little boy my mum used to draw me a picture of an owl she called ‘Ollie Owl’ which dated back to a TV programme from when she was young. It was the only thing she could draw. I’d ask her to draw something else but she’d always give me the pens and pencils and tell me to draw it, because, as she said ‘Oh I can’t draw a tractor/horse/cow/car/fire station/space station/octopus/ice cream van on fire.’
I found myself doing the same thing when T was younger. He’d ask me to draw things and I’d be hesitant, or reluctant to do so. I couldn’t draw anything. Except an owl from a long forgotten TV show.
I’m hopeless at art, crafting, drawing or anything West of that. Utterly hopeless. And I know I’ll never be good at it.
Once, in my late teens, I went on a cycling trip and went to Dorchester and the surrounding areas. I was studying Thomas Hardy and planned to visit his childhood cottage. I bought some paper and pencils so I could sit there and sketch it, forgetting I was useless at drawing and hoping that the years of not drawing anything at all had somehow given me some skill at doing so.
I spent a few hours in the sun, sketching this amazing building, but didn’t show anyone. I got home and my mum asked me how my trip was. I pulled out this sketchpad and showed her what I’d done.
‘That’s lovely Spencer. But why did you draw a loaf of bread?’
So. I’m shit at drawing. And when T asked me to draw something I’d encourage him as my mum did with me. Try to draw it yourself. In my head this was educating him, or giving him the confidence to draw something himself but it disguised the fact that I felt I couldn’t draw a perfect fire engine or a perfect replica of the Gruffalo. I’d have a go of course but they were always really shit. A stupid looking tractor, an ambulance or fire engine that no-one would ever want to go in. Even my trees look fucked, my cats look like creepy rabbits and my Thomas The Tank Engine looks more like Lord Voldemort
Suddenly the penny drops.
A perfectionist. Hmmm. Now I see what they meant.
I was given a make your own Morph kit for Father’s Day and on opening it T wanted to make ‘the man’ but I said we’d do it another time as we had plans to go out. Actually I didn’t want to do it ever because I knew it would look shit.
It wouldn’t look like Morph.
It wouldn’t be perfect.
But the following week, when the children were their home with Chicken Pox and I was looking after them we were struggling for things to do. T suggested it again. So I thought I’d give it a go as, frankly, I was running out of ideas to keep them distracted. So we put on the accompanying Morph DVD and had a go.
20 minutes later and lots of kneading of plasticine from team us there he was. A brown plasticine man who looked nothing like –
“It’s Morph! Wow Daddy it’s Morph! Well done Daddy, you’ve made Morph! You’ve made him! Well done Daddy” said T.
“Itshhhh Morph Daddy” said K.
The praise they gave me helped me think, and the think that I was thinking was that we can’t be perfect at anything, no matter how hard we try, and this counts double for parenting. We can do our best and sometimes that’s all we need to do to make our children happy. Somehow that’s enough.
It took a 3 year old, a 20 month old and a ball of plasticine to teach me that.
If you’ve got any drawing or crafting tips for me then please let me know. Equally, if you’ve got a surefire way of me being able to remove the stick that I have up my arse I’d greatly appreciate it.
Thanks for reading.