I'm not perfect


Driving home from a friend’s house last night, my 3-year-old daughter, 1-year-old son and I were listening to my daughter’s favorite CD – "The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band" – in the minivan, and one of our favorite songs came on. It’s called, "I’m Not Perfect," and it goes like this:

"I’m not perfect. No, I’m not.

I’m not perfect, but I’ve got what I’ve got.

I do my very best, do my very best, do my very best each day.

But, I’m not perfect, and I hope you like me that way."

That’s recited from memory, by the way – it’s become something of a theme song because, try as I might, I’m not perfect. Sometimes it’s more obvious than others.  

Were I the perfect wife, for instance, I would never utter a mean or uncaring word to my husband – even when I’m tired – and I would learn how to apologize to him without following it with a "but …"

Were I the perfect mother, I would know just what to say when my kids need encouragement or correcting or advice. And I would know when not to say anything, but to just listen, and maybe offer a hug. I would know all the answers to all the really tough questions and, instead of just giving them the answers I would know how to help them find the answers on their own. I would never doubt my judgment when it comes to matters of being silly or serious, and my daughter certainly would never say "Bad Mommy" when I make her do something she doesn’t want to do – stop sitting on her brother, or instance.

Were I the perfect friend, I would never fall out of touch. I would call when I think of calling or email when I think of emailing. I would send birthday cards and Christmas cards and get-well cards, because I would always know when my friends weren’t feeling well because we would talk more often and they would tell me.

Were I the perfect sister, I would do all the things I’d do for my friends, but more often. And I wouldn’t have to be told; I would just know.

Were I the perfect daughter, I wouldn’t say things I regret, I wouldn’t forget to call after my mom had surgery on her hand (sorry, Mom), and I wouldn’t wait until Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to tell my parents how thankful I am that they put up with me. And I would visit more, even though I know they really just want to see the grandkids.

Were I the perfect writer, it wouldn’t take me four – make that five – drafts to finish this column, and after that, there wouldn’t still be words I’m unsure about and more than one sentence fragment – a tendency I’ve decided is just my writing style so I don’t feel bad about it anymore.

Thing is, there are lots of things I’m not perfect at – far more than I have time to recount, and far too many than I care to bore you with. It seems the only thing I am perfect at is being imperfect.

And it’s OK.

It’s OK.

It’s OK.

Thank you, Laurie Berkner, for helping me see the light. Never mind that your intended audience is preschoolers, it’s as if the last verse of your song is speaking directly to me.

"You’re not perfect. No, you’re not.

You’re not perfect, but you’ve got what you’ve got.

You do your very best, do your very best, do your very best each day.

But you’re not perfect, and, you know, I love you that way."

Sometimes, in the hurrying, the studying, the parenting, the homemaking, the working, the forgetting, the remembering, I guess it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the stuff you want to do better, the stuff you know you should do better. The faults add up and they build up and they don’t let up. Until something – a song, a poem, a story, an experience – comes along and lets you see that, yes, you are flawed – we all are – and it’s OK.  

And so you embrace your faults – laugh at them even – and you try to do better, but not before beating yourself up for not doing better in the first place.

(Don’t tell me I’m the only one who does this.)

So today, thanks to a few fruitful conversations with friends who are gracious enough to still be my friends, a little thinking while driving and little inspiration courtesy of a very talented music teacher, I’m finding my faults to be a little less burdensome, a little less serious, and a little more, well, funny. I mean, come on. Bad Mommy? That’s good stuff.

I can always count on my daughter to tell me exactly what she’s thinking. This is why, through all of this, she’s the one I have to thank most.

After she and I sang the song at the tops of our lungs and my son drifted into and out of sleep, likely wishing for some peace and quiet and fewer bumps in the road, she said, in her sweet and sage 3-year-old voice, "I love you, Mommy. You’re not perfect. But I still love you."