Confessions of a Perfectionist- Part 1 (of many)

It's after 11 p.m. and I'm just now sitting down at my computer. It's been a long, full day, but this has been at the back of my mind, so I'm just gonna go with it.

This school year, I have been volunteering as the room parent for my daughters' classrooms. On a whole, the job is pretty simple: help the teachers coordinate things like classroom parties and parent volunteers, as well as attend our PTA meetings. Much of the year, I don't really have to do a whole lot, but toward the end of the school year, things can get busy.

Last Friday, one of the teachers asked me for help coordinating some volunteers to come in after school one day this week to help her complete a project. I sent her an email to clarify which days would be best, and then promptly forgot about emailing the parents. It just kind of got lost in everything else I've had going on. 

Fast forward to Tuesday night, around 11 p.m., when I take a look at my email and see that the teacher has emailed me to check in and find out if I have heard back from any other parents about helping on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon.

RADIO SILENCE (in my head). Then my mind goes blank.

No, I haven't heard back from any of the parents, obviously, because I never emailed them. My heart starts beating fast and my face flushes, despite the fact that no one is even around. So, I send out a quick email to the parents asking for anyone that might be able to help (suspecting that with such short notice there won't be), and then I email the teacher back explaining that I forgot to email everyone, but I've sent one out now asking for volunteers for Thursday and that I can help Wednesday, if necessary, and I am so, so, SO sorry.

But I can't let it go. I can't stop thinking about how I messed up, and how I've probably made it so much harder to get this project done, and I can't believe I forgot something like that, and WHAT will my daughter's teacher think of me now?! I'm so irresponsible! I check my email several more times, just in case she happens to still be up to read my response; nothing. Finally, I go to bed.

The next morning, I get up and check my email several times. I debate stopping to talk with the teacher during drop-off, but she's not out on the playground, so I head on home and keep worrying about it. FINALLY, about 8:20, I get an email from her saying that it's not a big deal, that we'll get it done on Thursday. I feel a little bit better, but I'm still dwelling on it. I don't get too many replies from parents; most of them work full-time outside the home, and typically aren't available until after normal office hours, so I kind of expected this, but I was still hoping someone might be able to help.

That afternoon, when I still haven't gotten any affirmative answers, I stop to talk to the teacher at pick-up. To wrap up this LONG story, I wound up bringing the project home with me and completing it this evening. It wasn't a difficult project, and I was able to get it done in between working on some other things, but I STILL feel bad. I hate that I dropped the ball on this (or anything), and I also worry that other parents may feel like they haven't been afforded enough opportunities to volunteer in the classroom.

In my mind, I know that this is SUCH a small thing, one that's totally not worth worrying about, and definitely not something many other people would continue to think about long after it's been taken care of. But I can't let it go. For as long as I can remember, I have felt this intense pressure to do everything, well... perfectly. Even as I write this, I feel a particular nervousness about admitting that I failed at something, no matter how small.

You see, I've never been the pretty one, the kind one, the sweet one, the thin one, the attractive one. Smart, organized, on top of things, that's me. I may not be gorgeous or fun, but I definitely get things done. I don't think it's possible for anyone to hold me to a higher standard than I hold myself, and that can make life really frustrating sometimes.

The other night, one of the girls was worried about a homework assignment; she had hand-written it originally, but was required to type her final draft, which made her assignment look much shorter and she was concerned that it wouldn't be long enough, which would cause her to get a low grade. I asked her if it would really be so bad if she didn't get a good grade on it.

"Yes," she sobbed, "because I usually get such good grades."

And my heart broke for her a little, because I know exactly how she feels.

I asked her if she had followed all the directions and done her best work; she said she had.

"Well, then," I told her, "as long as you did what you were supposed to do and you tried your very best, that's all that matters."

Now, if only I could tell myself the same thing.