Oh, how I worry I made you like me, first born.
A capital A, when it comes to types.
A person who loves a picnic, but wipes down the table three times just to make sure there is no risk of salmonella.
It’s a trait I have to fight daily.
I fight it because perfectionism is not realistic.
It’s not achievable.
And it can steal your joy, if you don’t keep it in check.
When I look in the mirror, I see your grandfather. My dad. He is the same way. It’s clearly where I got it from.
But I didn’t necessarily want to pass it down.
You see, being first born, you already carry the burden of expectations.
How many times have I said, “You have to set the example for your brother and sister.” Or one of my favorite lines, “You are the oldest, you know better.”
But really the sword of perfectionism starts at birth if you have a mama that carries the gene too.
I hate to admit it, but your younger brother and sister have had it much easier than you.
But the first born!
Well, that’s a tough one.
No mother wants to mess up a child.
And with the first, there is extra pressure to “do it right.”
Plus, there is no manual. This means first time moms and first born children usually walk the tight rope together – both just trying to hold on for dear life.
Looking back, I never let you eat anything off the floor. Ever.
I took you to get your vaccines on the exact day you were turning a new age.
I ordered you expensive walking shoes because I wanted to be confident you had enough arch support.
I was intentional about no video games, always using sunblock, teaching you how to floss.
Your teeth. Not the dance.
I taught you how to make your own bed, sweep a floor, and empty a dishwasher before your fourth birthday.
You saw me go to work everyday, even when I was sick as a dog, carrying both of your siblings.
You watched me scrub the windows three times because the first two runs didn’t quite cut it.
But here is the slippery slope. I have always justified my perfectionism because in many ways it goes hand in hand with a strong work ethic. Meaning if I do something, personally or professionally, I am going to do it the best I possibly can or not at all. I don’t “half- hiney” anything. (The term is really half-ass, but since you are a child I feel like I shouldn’t ever cuss in front of you. See, there I go again – trying to be perfect. Aughhhh!
And now I watch you … a straight A student who will shoot hoops for hours at a time simply because you want to break your own records. Your. Own. Records.
I see you lay your school clothes out, perfectly folded and stacked in accordance to what item you will put on first.
I see you comb you hair back, look in the mirror, and comb it again to achieve that perfectly manicured flow.
I see you organize your books and sharpen your pencils each night so everything is perfectly in order when you wake up.
And then I worry. (And I am not even a worrier, so this says a lot!)
I worry that being first born, I was too hard on you.
I worry that I have given you a false sense of the world, because life is not in alphabetical order and color coded.
Life is not perfect by any means.
It’s messy and unexpected and chaotic.
And although you have seen all that at home as well, it’s usually just you and me, up too late washing the dishes. “No one likes to wake up to a dirty sink,” I say. I can’t help myself. It’s the truth. Or at least it’s my truth.
And so now, with two others beneath you who eat candy off the floor and are six months late for their vaccines, it’s obvious I have relaxed over the years.
I hope you feel that too.
I know you see it.
I hope you also see through my actions that life is a series of victories and failures and nothing is perfect.
No job is perfect. No relationship is flawless. No life is neat and tidy all the time.
And last night when you, me, and your siblings all feel sleep in the same clothes we wore all day because we were too tired to hunt for pajamas … well, I hope that you understand sometimes the best example to set, is to be the boy who is “old enough to know better” … but chooses not to care.