Graduating to Ink

Certain things just don’t last long at our house:

Kleenex (my wife and I bred 2 snot factories for children),
Diet Coke,
anything breakable,
clean rooms,
and erasers.

My son started kindergarten this year, so both of our children are in school now. And both of them are completely obsessed with erasers.

It’s not some whimsical fun, either; it’s a serious need. Almost anything they write has to be erased and rewritten. They’re never satisfied with their first effort. They need to make sure that everything on their paper looks just right.

I’m not exactly sure where my kids have acquired this perfectionist quality, but I’m certain it’s from Staci’s side of the family. It just doesn’t sound look seem like me.

By the way, I’m convinced that everyone has this little perfectionist gene somewhere in their DNA. For some of us it shows in everything we do – we need to have each little thing in its proper place. For this, we receive the proper needling from our friends. Others seem unaffected and therefore avoid public scorn — that is until they engage that special part of their life where they cannot accept anything less than the absolute best – work, sports, physical appearance, etc.

So the question is not “Are you a perfectionist?” but rather “About what are you a perfectionist?” Where is the place in your life where failure cannot be tolerated?

Where in your life do you long to have an eraser?

But here is the funny thing I notice as I watch my children obsessively work the pink end of their pencils — the erased marks never totally go away. As much as they’d love their initial efforts to be invisible, the shadows of those mistakes are still there if you pay attention.

I remember how big and mature I felt when I got to transition from just using pencils to finally being allowed to write with a pen in school. To feel trusted enough to write with permanent ink. It was like a special rite of passage. But that didn’t mean that I suddenly stopped making mistakes. Sure, I had garnered enough experience and skill to make fewer errors, but I still made mistakes.

Maybe I was just mature enough to finally accept my mistakes as part of the learning process.

No one likes their faults to be on display. We all wish that we could have erasers in life to hide these weak points in our lives. So we do our best to keep them under wraps. We work and adjust things so as to draw attention away from our past failures.

But just like a child’s worksheet, our mistakes cannot be fully hidden. They’re still there for anyone to see who is willing to look hard enough.

Maybe instead of working so hard to erase, we simply need to graduate to ink. To accept that our mistakes are simply a part of the process. To embrace them as integral to growth and maturity.

Because we’re strongest in the area of our scars. And the lessons best learned are the ones gained from mistakes.

So how about you? Do you feel this perfectionist pull anywhere in your life? And what would it take for you to put down that eraser and graduate to ink?

One thought on “Graduating to Ink

  1. Being “perfect” has always been a part of my life. I am one who would beat myself up over mistakes more than and better than anyone else who noticed my failures. Through a study by author Lysa TerKeurst that I am currently doing entitled “Unglued”, I am slowly learning to live with “imperfect progress.” What a novel idea for me! I don’t have to be perfect; I just need to be making progress. As Allen has put it, graduating from pencil to pen.

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