"I don't want to go."
"How long is this going to take?"
"Why do we have to do this?"
No, I wasn't taking my girls to the doctor for a shot. These were the responses to the statement, "Let's go find Easter dresses." With the Daytona 500 rained out on Sunday, my mom and I thought it would be a good time to take my reluctant shoppers to get dresses for Easter.
As you've probably figured out by now, my girls really aren't the dresses and hair bows type. We had looked online at a few dresses, and I had tried to persuade the girls to get matching dresses. That suggestion was met with a look of pure disgust from my fifth grader.
So, off to the store we went, with one child keeping an eye on the clock and the other sitting in sullen silence. "Wow, this is going to be fun," I thought.
Once we hit the store, my oldest found one of the dresses she had looked at online, tried it on (after carefully scouring the store to make sure none of her friends were there to see her *gasp* put on a dress) and pronounced it perfect. She then ran off to look at the sportier clothing.
My youngest daughter had decided on a sailor dress, but when we got to the store, we found no sailor dresses in her size. This required my youngest to make a new choice. Not a good thing. She finally settled on one dress to try on, but when we got it back to the dressing room she decided it was "too poofy." Her response? "Mom, go pick out a couple of dresses and bring them back here so I can try them on."
Back I went to the racks to try to find a dress that wasn't too poofy, didn't feel scratchy and would fit the color desires of my 8-year-old. After trying on five dresses, she settled on a black and white dress with a lime green jacket and bow.
"Great," I thought. "Now we have dresses." I put them both in my hands and headed for the checkout. That's when my mom said, "You're going to have some great Easter pictures."
In dismay, I looked down at the dresses in my hand to discover that nothing was going to make them look good in a picture together. Lime green does not go with turquoise and cornflower blue, no matter how much you want it to.
Now, Easter is one of two times in the year that I insist everyone dress up for church. My husband even wears a jacket. We always take a family picture on Easter. Usually, I try really hard to get coordinating dresses for the girls. It's just my thing. I know everyone will look nice that morning, and we leave extra time before church to take the picture -- so no one will be wrinkled in the photo.
As I looked at the dresses in my hand and then at my girls, I was faced with a choice: Do I let my desire for perfection override my girls' choices or do I give up my expectations of perfection?
I'll be honest. I really wanted to put one of the dresses back on the rack. I really wanted my Easter picture to be perfect. But in that split second of standing there, thinking about the perfect Easter photo, I heard a voice say, "at what cost?"
And that's a question we need to ask ourselves when our desire for the perfect outing, the perfect project, even the perfect children begins to get in the way of letting our kids be themselves. When our desire for perfection becomes the most important thing, it shoves aside the need our kids have to express themselves -- to grow, to discover and to imagine.
When a clean house becomes more important than imaginative kids, we need to ask "at what cost?" When a perfect score on a math test becomes more important than a child trying his best, we need to ask "at what cost?" When a medal in a soccer tournament or a dance competition becomes more important than our kids having fun, we need to ask "at what cost?"
Our kids will learn what's important from us. If we put striving for perfection above everything else, then we are telling them that it doesn't matter the cost, the end result is what's important. But if we let them make their own choices -- even when those choices spoil the picture, make a mess or disappoint -- we teach them that making mistakes and being who they were designed to be is OK. We teach them that doing their best and being who God made them to be is more important than being like everyone else. We let them know that failing to reach perfection is OK because we all fall short. (Romans 3:23)
My girls now have clashing dresses hanging in their closets. They will wear them on Easter, and I will take my Easter picture. And years from now, I will look at it and remember the Easter we took the "perfect" picture.
Linking up today with Women Living Well.