I was standing about three feet away from my daughter who was sitting on her chair bent over the table, intent on getting it right. Why was I standing there? For moral support. To ensure that she got it right the very first time. Why were we so desperate that she nailed it the very first time? Because she was doing the fair copy of the very last one on a booklet which was already impeccably done without a single mistake by her. We were hell-bent on her not slipping up at the very end and ruining a otherwise perfectly done job. Compromising perfection was not an option, it meant re-doing the whole assignment which was my daughter’s worst nightmare!
Man! Talk about performance anxiety. The whole time I was standing beside her I was a nervous wreck. I could feel my stomach cramping, my breathing becoming faster, sweating, my hands shivering. I wasn’t sure whether my presence was helping her or disturbing her. I didn’t know whether to be a passive or active helper.
As I was standing there feeling lost and unsure, my daughter’s frustrated words “Shit! It looks horrible! I screwed it up!” jolted me into action. I told her to calm down and focussed on resolving the issue. She came up with the solution of tearing that particular page and just re-doing that part alone but wasn’t sure if she could do it without ruining the booklet. I took up that responsibility and did it.
She started doing that part of the assignment again. This time around I keenly observed what she was doing and was guiding her along step by step. It took me some time to realize why she was struggling with this particular task and even more time to come up with strategies that would help her. We somehow finished it! It wasn’t as perfect as we wanted it to be but we were happy to have done it fairly well.
The next few hours I indulged in self flagellation; I was hit by guilt for not catching onto what was happening earlier. I had just assumed that she was not paying enough attention when it came to aligning data especially huge numbers while writing. If only I had been paying attention to her rough work and listening to her more carefully through all our discussions as to how to go about it, I would have realized right then that my way or approach wouldn’t work for her. In fact her trying to do it my way was the problem. If only I had …….If only I had……..If only I had…….
After I got over that event. I could look back objectively and trace my emotional travel from being nervous, unsure, unclear, lost when I was blindly going after perfection, to being decisive and determined when my focus shifted from perfection to entirely dealing with issue in hand, to being accepting, satisfied, joyful, happy when I could appreciate my daughter’s earnest effort.
Today I feel I got to know about myself and my daughter better through this event. Get the feeling that that experience was much bigger and significant than the marks that were involved, her 12th grade, her academic education. Got to learn a thing or two that’s going to serve me and my daughter well in the coming years.
Gosh! How easily one can lose one’s perceptive; agonizing over getting the alignment perfect on paper for half a mark while totally neglecting to pay any attention to aligning oneself.