Tuesday was day four in an All-Liev-All-Day Marathon. By then, the stomach flu that incapacitated him over the weekend had dissipated.
This left me with a bored, petulant and well-rested child. Filling such a day with activities can be a challenge.
When I ran out of good ideas, we went on a Basement Safari. Old things seem new after a few months in boxes. We searched through collections of aged balloons, abandoned craft supplies and strange building equipment.
Finally, we found an old typewriter. I would like to add a third floor to our house just to shelter the abandoned typewriters and outdated radios I find.
Anyway, Liev loves typewriters as much as I do. We hauled it upstairs and weighed it (32 pounds!). I set Liev up with a little station and he spent the next hour typing.
As he typed, I painted and drew with pen and ink nearby. I took a dozen trips to his station to show him how to work the typewriter and to keep him company when he became frustrated.
During that time, I saw my husband’s intensity reflected in Liev.
For years, certain issues have troubled my husband. He seeks to understand his need for perfection. Sometimes, he speculates that this need for perfection arose from the Russian school system or even his family.
As Liev obsessed over his typing, he ripped page after page out of the typewriter and discarded in frustration. His need to type the perfect letter consumed him. I watched as he walked around in circles between sheets, talking to himself about typing.
“His motivation is entirely internal,” I thought. “No one is putting pressure on this child to type the perfect letter to Hello Kitty.”
At that moment, I understood that the perfectionism that grips my son grips my husband.
This inner desire to work well is precious. Yet, in trying to align all the details, the whole can be lost—whether the purpose is play, work or artistic expression. People in our family become stuck in tiny corners and crevices when we really need to peek over the walls and survey the horizon.
My job as a mother is to mediate perfection seeking. If I can help my son build a plan, he will feel less frustration and attain more satisfaction from life.
We spent the rest of the afternoon problem solving and building tolerance for mistakes. Our stack of recycled art paper still grew, but it was more fun.
I saved and clipped some of his “not perfect” excerpts to a watercolor background (above). I also have his final letter to Hello, Kitty: