My son is a terrible perfectionist. He gets it from me. He’s also a writer, a good one. Today the kids and I sat around our table and worked on a writing assignment. The lesson required that each child write a poem from the viewpoint of the Native Americans who witnessed the arrival of explorers to the New World. Each of the kids wrote his or her poem and I promised that I’d write one as well.
I’m no poet but I want to set an example for my kids and make them feel that their work is valuable. So there we were, one big, happy, poetry-writing family. The kids scribbled away, backs curled, arms protecting their words.
My oldest son was the first to ask if he could read his masterpiece. He read with authority and smiled at the final sentence. My daughter read next. She’d thrown in every colorful verb she could think of, obscuring her meaning with gusto. She laughed as she read.
My middle son would not read his poem. Would not. He growled as he covered his paper with grubby-nailed hands. I have to tread lightly with this kid. If I show him that I very much want him to do anything, his general impulse is to double down and refuse just because, why not. Instead of begging him, I told him I’d read my own hackneyed poem aloud to the group.
He was singularly unimpressed.
Then I told him that I’d blog my poem, exposing it to the world for ridicule and shame. He pretended not to care but I’m doing it anyway, for the official records:
They glide across our water paths,
hair shining like the sun god’s.
Their eyes pin me to the shore
because they have no soil in them.
Their voices flutter and swim on the wind,
singing fearsome songs I cannot know.
Their legs stomp our sands, giant leather trees
ashamed to wear their own skins.
They remember another world as they spread
out over ours.
There. He can’t say I didn’t do it. Here’s to the painful death of perfectionism.
Addendum: He read me his poem. Booyah.