To re-do, or not to re-do. That is the question

And, despite my penchant for ripping out quilting, that is not what this post is about.

This post is about childhood and influence and memories and false memories and perception versus reality. It's been a hard memory to work my way through and I'm not sure how it's going to work, talking about it on my blog, where my family can read it...cuz I don't come out looking very good. But, here goes.

If you'd asked me a few years ago whether I was good enough, I'd have said no. I am good, but I'm never going to be "good enough". All my life, I was never "good enough". And, the example I would have given is when my Dad taught me to change a tire. He had me change the tire, and then, he pulled the tire off and put it on again because he didn't think I was good enough to do it right.

That is one big, huge bucket of false memory. But, I was never forced to deal with its falseness until I had a kid and I started teaching that kid how to do things. I never had to deal with the falseness and I never had to take responsibility for being, or not being "good enough". All I had to do was walk around under the false perception that I was not, and never would be "good enough" and then I could never fail, because even my Daddy knew I wasn't good enough. Everything I did, he came right behind me and re-did it.

Wanna hear what really happened? After I changed the tire, he took the lug wrench and made sure my 98-pound-weakling-ass had tightened up the lugnuts enough. He didn't take the tire off and put it back on again. Just tightened the lugnuts. Just what any Daddy would have done. Just made sure I'd be safe. Exactly what I'd expect him to have done if I'd had to change a flat tire on the freeway. And, probably what he'd do if I had a flat on the way to his house now, 35 years later. Because he just wanted to make sure I was safe. It wasn't a criticism. It was an unspoken love gesture. And, because it was unspoken, I misunderstood it and carried that misunderstanding with me for a very long time.

And, what's more, he put up with my lazy butt, trying to shortcut every task I was assigned so I could get on to things that would be interesting to me (usually TV). So, I'm pretty sure he did re-do a bunch of stuff I did, but not because of my wrong perception that I wasn't good enough. Because I was a lazy bones that did my dead level best to make every task as simple and fast as possible, even if the results suffered because of it. How frustrating that must have been for him. What the heck...I know first hand how frustrating that must have been for him because I'm going through it myself.

Spring forward 30 years until I get a kid. Now I'm trying to teach her to do things. Trying to teach her to make a pie, or rake a yard, or paint a cabinet. And, she's just like me...scary like me, for someone that I wasn't around for the first 9 years of her life. Anyway, she takes the quick, simple way and the results suffer. And I'm torn between my desire to have a job done "good enough" and my desire to make sure she feels "good enough". To balance the praise with real feedback. To let her know that some things just have to be done a certain way and that requires extra time and extra work and practice.

So, why did all this come up so suddenly? Remember Friday, after the eye doctor's appt, Sydney and I painted cabinets? She wanted to paint. I wanted to be around her. So, I let her paint with me. And, she slopped it up. And, I decided I could live with it rather than give her any feedback. I asked Rob and told him how it came about and he decided he could live with it, too.

But, Sunday, after a while in the kitchen, I decided I couldn't live with it. So, yesterday morning, I repainted the doors. Secretly. After Rob and Sydney had left for the day. And, I propped them barely open so they'd have time to dry, but they were closed enough that she wouldn't wonder why they were open.

That's a lot of effort to go to, just to keep from telling her I'm redoing her work because she rushed through it and didn't listen to what I was trying to tell her and show her about long brush strokes. And, to encourage her to practice that skill.

But, while I was doing it, I had to deal with my own issues of "good enough" and re-doing work that isn't good enough, and the realities and the truths about all that and the responsibility that comes with acknowledging that I am good enough and always was, and my Daddy never really acted like I wasn't. And, feeling a little guilty about holding onto a grudge for 30 years about something that didn't happen. And, taking responsibility for the fact that when I wasn't good enough, it was my choice, not my Dad's expectations that were the problem.

I think next time, I'll be able to do a better job of providing real time feedback. And, if the work needs to be redone, explaining why and then deciding if it's me or her that has to re-do it. Either way, I'll be able to do it better next time, because I had to deal with my own feelings about being good enough. And, I had to realize that sometimes work gets re-done and it's not because the do-er isn't good enough, but rather that the work isn't good enough. And, keep the focus on the work and not the person.

Ain't parenthood a wonderful adventure into our own childhood?



lw said...

Good post, Lane, and for the record, you come across as very human and lovable.

You caught I remember most from parenting my daughters: the realization that most of my interpretation of my parents behavior was wrong.

The one that really sticks out is that I thought my folks loved me less than one of my sisters-- the one who would do anything for attention. Because I was quiet, I was ignored. It wasn't true. They loved me just as much, and really valued my behavior, because I wasn't acting out. I just wish I'd have figured it out when I was a kid, instead of spending most of childhood depressed and feeling unloved.

Robin said...

Oh my gosh! I felt like I was reading a post about myself! I suffer from perfectionism because my father pointed out the places I missed when I cut the grass. I never considered HIS side of those encounters until I read this post. I wasn't lucky (or un-lucky) enough to become a parent myself so I guess I just didn't have the opportunity to see that I was probably half-assing it too. So thank you SO MUCH for pointing that out to me. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

wow. enjoyed reading. glad your daughter has a Dad like you.

Becky said...

Wow. Just wow. You rock!

Coloradolady said...

I have a confession.....I wish I would have had parents like you and Rob. And I mean that. Lane you are so not good enough....you are so MUCH BETTER THAN THAT.....So much more!

Tanit-Isis said...

Memory and perspective are such curious things. And you're so right that our experiences and interpretations, especially after time, can be so subjective.

Over Hallowe'en I pulled out a costume piece I made back in high school. It was one of the first times I had ever used a pattern, and I had almost no idea what I was doing. I hadn't looked at it in a few years, and the crudity of it really took my breath away. My next thought was of my mother, who advised me on the project, but didn't interfere. How did she let me do such a bodge job? How did she not manage to point out my awkward fit, raw facings, lack of understitching? And yet, if she had, would I have taken the advice and learned from it, or just tossed the project and sulked? I don't know---but I think a HUGE part of parenting is figuring out how to walk that line between correction and allowing the kid to learn on their own. I suspect the guidelines involve 1) who is affected by the poor job---just the kid, or does it affect you, too? and 2) the significance of the problem---is it an important defect (dangerous to health, say, like not turning off the stove) or just something irksome, like a poorly made bed?

Vesuviusmama said...

Part of what makes you such a great parent is all the thought you put into what you are doing and what you have done. We could all use a bit more introspection in our lives.