It didn’t take a psychic to predict what was about to unfold before me. My 8-year-old son had just struck out in his little league game. While I attempted to brace myself for some ugliness, it was just too late. In the dugout where he returned, a hat and bat went fiercely flying in the air. An angry mouth bore some ugly words.

The kid was irate.

Although my son is a great baseball player, he does occasionally strike out. In fact, every single person who has ever participated in the game has had it happen. It’s not a great feeling for anybody. However, for Owen, it is soul-crushing.

My name is Kathleen. I am raising a perfectionist, and it is not as perfect as it seems.

I always took great pride in the seriousness with which my son takes things. He is an excellent student and great athlete. Both teachers and coaches alike have deemed him a “superstar.” My child is not without flaws, but he works and plays hard. For that, I am extremely grateful.

Owen, on the other hand, has been known to be his own worst enemy.

I have been in tune with Owen’s personality for a while now, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 hit that I started to see the severity of his perfectionism.

I experienced it firsthand one day during remote learning. His online platform enabled him to draw his words on the screen. Pretty cool.

However, it can be a very hard task to learneven for an adult. The finished product can look far from perfect, maybe even a little sloppy.

RELATED: No One Told Me How Hard the Elementary Years Would Be

I can accept this.

His teacher certainly can.

Many of his classmates can too.

Owen cannot.

Within seconds, he had a breakdown over how “ugly” it looked. As I tried to comfort him, I realized it was a lost cause.

The letter “T” which he had worked so hard to craft, looked more like a plus sign, or was it a cross sign? I really don’t recall as I was too preoccupied muffling all the screaming in my ears.

Either way, it was a total disaster.

It was during circumstances like this when I surmised that it simply wasn’t worth going on.

We both needed a break.

A long one.

I let the minutes fly by in silence.

I knew that my son, a stickler for all things perfect, would make sure the letter “T” was good enough before the assignment deadline.

Because, God forbid, he disappoint the teacher.

I, on the other hand, was left nursing a migraine.

In the days that followed, I made it a point not only to be gentler with Owen but gentler with myself.

After a few days of watching the meltdowns, I had begun to question my own parenting skills? What kind of a parent lets this happen? I was the teacher who had lost control of her class.

RELATED: Our Kids Deserve To Know Their Best is Enough

I had to step back and re-evaluate.

Mostly, I considered the timing of the meltdowns. We were right in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I was struggling. How was I supposed to expect my kid not to? Well, of course, he wasn’t doing that well in isolation!

Neither was I.

Neither were any of us.

I also explained to him that we all make mistakes.

Even adults.

Even teachers.

Work breaks were not only encouraged but became a necessity. I kept calm and focused. If anything, I wanted to prove to him that we would be able to get through this together.

The turning point came after a particularly hellish homework night. He made a mistake and was not happy.

He began the mumblings of how bad he is at everything and how awful and unfair life was due to his stupidity.

It was then that I asked him a very serious question: “Owen, what would you say if Brandon (his best friend) started talking that way about himself? How would you feel if he used those ugly words? “

Total silence.

He understood, and a dialogue began.

In researching the behavior of perfectionists, I learned that many of them suffer from anxiety. I felt for my son. If anyone could understand anxiety, it was me. It was time to change things up a bit.

RELATED: Dear Daughter, Do Not Be Perfect

Instead of spending five hours arguing in front of a screen, we modified the behaviors. We made sure to get outdoors at least a couple of times a day for recreation. We read to each other for enjoyment. We cleared and organized the workspace so it was a happier and more productive one.

We also tried to keep in touch with Owen’s teacher as much as possible. When I voiced my concerns, I was relieved to find we were far from alone. So many parents and students had the same hardships. We accepted that if we weren’t able to finish a particular task for today, it would be waiting for us tomorrow. There was absolutely no need to push an already trying situation.

Now that Owen is back in school full-time, I am trying to keep everything consistent. He still gets upset over a mistake every once in a while, but we quickly move forward from it.

Maybe imperfect is perfect after all?

Originally published on Filter Free Parents

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

You should also check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Kathleen Sullivan

I am a freelance writer and full-time mom. My work has appeared on: The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode xoJane, Parentco., Mommyish and Your Tango. I can also be found blogging at:

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading

God Chose Me to Be the Mother of a Wild One

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman holding child on the beach, black-and-white photo

It was just another typical fall morning. There was a time change so you were a little extra sleepy (also known as grouchy) but nothing too out of the ordinary. In a split second, that all changed, and the reality of what it is like to live with an unbelievably relentless little human set in like never before. I sat on your bedroom floor, laundry scattered all around, and literally watched my tears fall to the ground. I was on my knees. Physically on my knees just begging you to stop or begging God to give me patience. I don’t...

Keep Reading