DIY-Christmas-Gift-Wrapping-Ideas-Button-Gift-Wrap-Creative-Gift-Wrapping-IdeasWith Christmas rapidly approaching, this will probably be my last post before the holiday. I write and wonder how you all are doing. Is your tree up, with lights and ornaments? Are all your presents purchased? Are any wrapped? Have you baked those cookies you plan to deliver to friends and neighbors?

My own answer to those questions would be no, no, not yet and most certainly no, which is pretty typical for the Kirkpatrick family. Between owning a retail business and working in education (me and the kids), the season doesn’t really feel festive until the shop is closed, school’s out and grades are in. We try to get in the spirit early, but meh – the 20th is when we start gearing up for fun.

Tim and the kids are always great about asking me what I want for Christmas and I always have ideas: boots, clothes, perfume, massages, a vacuum. This year though the Universe sent me a little holiday gift and I didn’t ask for it and it wasn’t what I wanted. It came wrapped up in a book with a sky-blue cover and a little red heart on it by Brene Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection

Sweet title, sweet book, I thought. I was wrong. It is heavy-duty stuff about shame and worthiness, fear, faith and authenticity. I was getting through it though, until I got to page 55 and a chapter called, “Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism.”  I almost skipped that one, because I am not a perfectionist. I have plenty of compassion for myself. I eat dessert every night. I draw myself hot bubble baths of a regular basis. When I’m just not feeling up to the challenge, I have no problem leaving the house looking like a wreck. However, I read on to see if there were any bits of self-love I was leaving on the table.

I wish I hadn’t. I started to read the chapter and within a page or two, my face started to flush, my heart beat faster. I pressed on, hoping it would go away, but it didn’t. Instead, I added nausea to my list of symptoms, as highlighter and pencil lead flew across the page, marking up sentence after sentence. As she described one perfectionist tendency after another, I became more and more mortified. The worst part was that I was totally unprepared! Like any good perfectionist, I hate to be caught off-guard, unaware, or uninformed about anything, especially my own personal business!

There were two things she clarified that struck me especially.

Perfectionism is not the same as striving to be your best. It is not self-improvement.

“Um, yes it is,” I thought, until she explained: Rather, perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. Self-improvement is about moving in the right direction and I work hard at that, but apparently, people with my problem think that if we do everything right, improve enough, we will never feel those things. Those experiences (blame, judgment, shame) are for other people, so instead of taking the risk of doing big things imperfectly, we tend to do less than we are capable of.

Brown calls this life paralysis;

it’s all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes and disappointing others. It’s terrifying to risk when you’re a perfectionist; your self worth is on the line.

I read these ideas and thought of all the book ideas I have stashed in my files, the thousands of pages of written, and unedited work on my computer, the hundreds of speaking leads sitting in a database on my desk, and the teaching job that pays me less than I could make at Starbucks. I live out a perfectionist’s paradox: I might be capable of more, but I’m too afraid to find out I’m not. Instead, I stay where I am, tucked away in my tiny little corner of the world, blogging from my cheetah-print armchair, looking out of my bedroom window at the blue sky and waiting for my family to come home.

Brown names the gifts of imperfection as courage, compassion and connection. I want to experience more of those, but first, I need to accept the gift of imperfection, the simple ability to forgive myself and move on when I make mistakes, instead of feeling like a failure. I need to not just dream big, but actually work on making those dreams come true, despite my fear of ridicule. 

My friend Leslie recently asked me to name a word for 2014. Fearlessness, I said, without hesitation, but the only way I can work on that is to first unwrap the gift of imperfection. Imperfections are not inadequacies, Brown writes, and to believe that would set me free. 

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This is the conversation Tim and I had this morning.

Me: I have a couple of good ideas for Mother’s Day gifts if you need any hints.

Tim: Do we give gifts on Mother’s Day?

Me: You’re joking, right?

Tim: No. Seriously, is it a gift-giving occasion?

Me: Really, you are joking, aren’t you?

In case you don’t know Tim personally, he jokes ALL THE TIME. There is no good reason for me, or anyone else, to take what he says at face value.

At any rate, he finally convinced me that he truly didn’t remember if he, or the kids, were supposed to have a gift waiting for me on Sunday morning.

I immediately forwarded him the link to “The Mother’s Day Debate” and thought I would share it with all of you, just in case someone in your life forgot as well.

“The Mother’s Day Debate”

My friend T and I were discussing Mother’s Day traditions last night – what we were doing on Sunday, what our kids, or husbands had planned, what we hoped for. We were definitely on the same page. We don’t need them to do something big; we don’t need them to do something fancy. We just need them to do something.

I definitely have friends who take the martyr approach, who are of the “It’s no big deal” variety – moms who are happy to overlook a lack of effort, sincerity, time, or money spent. I am not one of them, and as a result, there have been some rocky Mother’s Days around our home.

Before that second Sunday in May, I’d like to my kids know that:

There is such a thing as gratitude. There is such a thing as acknowledging the fact that each and every day, I serve you. I cook for you, clean for you, drive for you. I entertain you, love you, tuck you in at night, take care of you when you are sick, celebrate your accomplishments and mourn your defeats. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE doing this and I love you. I will continue to do this, whether or not I get anything special on Mother’s Day, Christmas, or my birthday. I will tell myself that deep down, you really do appreciate me and deep down, I really do believe it’s true.

However, I think Mother’s Day is a nice opportunity for my husband to reinforce the messages we try to teach our kids all year long: the art of acknowledgement, the joy of gift-giving, the impact of making an effort.

When they were all in elementary school, he had it easier. The teachers would help the kids make little balls of crepe paper flowers, signs of love, or traced handprints with poems written to melt a mama’s heart. Those were the good old days. I’ve only got the baby left in that demographic, and even her handprints aren’t that cute any more.

So now the onus is all on Tim. Somehow, he has to inspire the troops to really love on their mom. How will it turn out this year? It’s questionable – because they’re growing up and bought into the hype that it’s no big deal, that Mother’s Day is just another Hallmark holiday, that a hug and a kiss and a mumbled “Happy Mother’s Day” is good enough.

Sorry mister, it’s really not.

I’d like Tim to know that:

I know you are busy. I know the kids are lukewarm about shopping. I know you detest it. But I’d really like to get something from someplace other than Hallmark, Rite Aid and Starbucks, the three shops in a row at the strip mall a mile away from our home. I like to think my perfect Mother’s Day is pretty easy. A morning latte and blueberry scone, a trip to the beach, a plate of buffalo wings and a pitcher of dark beer for dinner, while we watch an NBA playoff game. You’ve said before that my Mother’s Day is a surfing man’s dream.

Tim might like to remind me at this point that I am not all that easy. That I forgot about wanting to go to church as a family, which always involves arguments about showers, clothing and shoe-choices. G**- Forbid, Molly has to wear something besides her slip-on, checkered Vans with a hole in the toe. Since it’s Mother’s Day, he has to do all the arguing. He might also mention that my morning latte is actually a “grande, two-pump, extra-hot, non-fat, vanilla latte,” which he can never order right since he only gets it for me once a year, and then despite his effort and embarrassment at ordering such a ridiculous thing, he has to see me be almost satisfied, instead of completely so. Finally, he doesn’t like dark beer, or buffalo wings, but I order them and he eats them, because after all, it is Mother’s Day. 

Now, if anyone is getting defensive on my poor family’s behalf, let me just say again that a gift doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to be a bouquet of over-priced flowers. It just needs to speak my love language, which means it needs to come from the heart. And if their hearts are blank, if they come up empty when it comes to me, well then, that’s a story for another day. But I am going to pretend like that’s not the case. I am going to hope that they just need a little bit of encouragement to dig deep, take some time and put down on paper a little bit of mom-love. Is that too much to ask? Colored markers speak volumes.

Tim might also like to jump in here and point out that for his birthday last week I failed miserably at this very challenge. Only two out of three of our kids mustered up the energy to make him a birthday card and his gifts consisted of two gift cards from that same strip mall I was just complaining about.

In my defense, he always says we don’t need to get him anything. never say that! But okay, I’m humbled, but that’s not the point. The point is the ideal we are shooting for here people!

So what do you think, moms? Is Mother’s Day a big deal, or not? Does your family step up, or is it just another Hallmark-holiday to you? And what do you do to honor your mom, and your mother-in-law, and your sisters and all the other mothers you know and love and your own role in your family all in the same day?

P.S. As I finished writing, I looked up and saw this. It was my one of my best Mother’s Day presents ever. I actually have it hanging next to my bed to help me remember who I am.

Molly's Mother's Day Creation