When my children were still in diapers, I came across a Japanese term called wabi-sabi. I remember reading that it loosely translated into finding the beauty in imperfections. I don't recall where I found the article or when I had time to read it, but I remember feeling relieved that there was such a concept about realizing that things could be too perfect; a little messy was more realistic, and a lot more beautiful.
I was happy to apply that to my housekeeping, but more reluctant to apply it to my parenting--at first.
I wanted to be That Parent whose kids were everything: beautiful, polite, outgoing, adventurous, curious, athletic, happy. I happily gathered up compliments about them and formed beautiful bouquets in my own room, basking in my own handiwork.
Two things happened that, thank God, made me change: First, my daughter started to mature and need perfection to satisfy her; second, I had a second son and the two boys wrecked my image of perfection.
The idea of wabi-sabi helped me with my daughter. There are many things that I repeat to my trio; one of them is "Nothing is perfect in nature or in life!" I want to remind my daughter especially that there is no tree that's perfectly formed, no woods that form a perfect circle, no flower that always stands still and perfect in a breeze. I want her to be freed by this knowledge, to relax in life's imperfections--in her art and in her life.
The idea of wabi-sabi helps still with me. Yesterday my daughter was sick and had to stay home from school, despite the fact that I yearned with my whole heart to have my three wonderful kids happily occupied by their teachers and schools after two straight weeks of being with them during their super-long Spring Break. But Lorelei stayed home, and it was nice and good to spend time with just my daughter. We read together, chatted together, drew cards for her cousin together.
I confessed to her that I noticed I was yelling more and more, especially after visiting my aunt and my sister, who both yell at their kids and husband without any thought. I don't like the habit but it comes easily to me, so... I yell. I told her I wanted to do another no-yelling challenge--she gave me a thumb's up.
Fast forward to when her brothers came home from school. We have a short driveway, and one wanted to bike and the other wanted to play basketball. Of course the area under the basket was the best biking space. Of course that was frustrating to the ball player. Guess what I did after they were home for 20 minutes? I yelled at them. Sigh.
During dinner we read some picture books, an old habit that remains with us, that calms my kids and gets them to peek inside each other's interests as each child chooses a book. We read a nonfiction picture book about a girl who pitched in the minor leagues for one game and one game only--because she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and they couldn't handle being struck out by a girl, basically. It was a great book, but an even better conversation.
And then, after dinner, we played a raucous-in-all-the-right-ways game of Uno. We played hard, ribbing each other like crazy, giving each other "the business" with draw-twos and skips and draw-fours. We laughed hard at multiple Skips being played and about how many cards some of us had at the same time. I won both games, so I handed out chocolate to ease their loss.
I might yell a little, but I am still a good mother. Maybe that's where our strengths lie as parents--in the bits of the job we don't do as well as we "should." I read and talk and admit my own shortcomings to my kids. I'm a good mother, even if I don't go easy on my kids while playing Uno.
There's a nice ,short article about wabi-sabi on the Utne Reader HERE.