06/11/2013 08:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Struggling With Perfectionist Parenting

Yesterday morning, we went to the eye doctor's to drop off Jack's glasses. I'm finally getting those lenses replaced. They were scratched when Jack decided to turn them into an antenna for a VW bug. Naturally, the lenses had to go on the floor. Under the wheels. And slide along the wood floor. They just had to, Mom. So we get the glasses dropped off and were up in a different neck of the woods around lunch time.

Me: "Hey, a Golden Corral. I've never eaten at a Golden Corral, but I've heard it's a buffet. You want to try it?"

Let me tell you how far I've come. In the old days, I would have turned up my nose at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant: too many people, sneeze guards that don't stop the germs, standing elbow-to-elbow with other customers to get as much food on your plate as possible.

Yesterday, when I was thinking buffet, I conjured images of offerings more like the home-cooked food Jack likes. I imagined fruit and veggies on the salad bar that he would enjoy, not fast or fried food that would give him tummy problems. Maybe they'll even have soft-serve ice cream, I thought. WIN!

And this is what this parenting journey is bringing me. It made me realize what I've done in the past to protect myself, to help myself feel better about me. I took the shame I felt about myself -- all my imperfections, my past, my attempts to make myself into something to hide the shame, my supposed failings as a mother -- and turned it into perfectionism. I thought if I could make myself "better" -- perfect clothes, perfect house, perfect parenting -- I would never feel pain again.

It didn't. It added to the pain. It made me judge others and everything, even restaurants. It made me feel angry, treat myself harshly, blame others for what I saw as faults. I felt more shame because I never could be perfect. It made me spread the shame because I wanted Jack to be perfect, too.

Jack sat at a table by the window, so he could see cars. He ate the chicken, peaches and green beans and declared, "They taste JUST LIKE YOURS, MOMMY!"

Jack, kissing me with a mouthful of yeast roll, continued: "This is the BEST RESTAURANT EVER!"

I love this kid. Thank you, Jack. Thank you, life. Thank you for showing me the beauty in everyday things, the beauty in the cracks that make me who I am and the beauty in every soul. We all have our cracks and our shame. I want to choose to see life with love, not in spite of the cracks, but because of those cracks.