Complete in all respects, but not perfect

“I messed up again!” Joe whined, as he brushed his piece of paper onto the floor and tossed his crayon. “I can’t draw a tree.”

I picked the piece of paper off the floor and looked at Joe’s rendition. “What’s wrong with this?” I asked him.

“There is more green on one side of the tree than the other.” He said sadly.

My favorite evergreen tree. Perfection in my eyes.“Joe,” I said, “Look outside. See all our trees in the backyard? None of those trees are perfect. Each tree has crooked limbs and missing leaves.”

I got up and walked towards a front window. “Come here, Joe. I want to show you something.”

Joe got up and followed me to the window in our living room. “See this tree?” I asked, while pointing to an evergreen growing next to our house. “See how this tree has branches on one side of it but not the other side?”

I stood there as Joe looked out the window, examining the tree. I could tell he he was getting my message. He walked back to his drawing and finished his apple tree. Pleased with his work, he took the picture to church to give to his friend Sam.

Last week, Rob and I had our first parent/teacher conference with Joe’s Kindergarten teacher. One comment she shared with us pertained to Joe wanting to always be right. She asks Joe to spell words phonically (phonetically?), but Joe balks – wanting to make sure he spells the word correctly.

Though Joe does not strive to be perfect or error- free all of the time, it is clear he does not like making mistakes. Does anyone like making mistakes?

When I made a comment to Joe regarding his picture, I used the word perfect. But, what is perfect? Really. And, is perfection attainable? According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, perfect is “complete in all respects; flawless; excellent as in skill or quality; completely accurate.” If a tree is drawn completely in all respects, does this mean the tree is then perfect? Is it possible for something to be complete in all respects but not completely accurate? The definition of perfect is contradictory to the point that perfection is both easy to attain and impossible to attain.

Wanting to be right and wanting to be perfect are two very different things, yet I believe we use them interchangeably. Joe’s personal take on his drawing was that the tree was not right; it was different. Yet, I took the liberty to use the word ‘perfect’ vs. being right or wrong. When the reality is sometimes different is simply ‘not the same’. And, just as we strive to be perfect or right, many of us also do whatever it is we can to make ourselves stand out from the crowd. We try to be different.

Am I making any sense? I want Joe to strive to be right when it matters. And, being right is important in matters like math and science. But, I don’t want Joe to worry about always being right. I don’t want Joe to worry about always being perfect. And, for the most part, society is reflecting their own personal opinion when the terms right and perfect are used.

Joe's perfect Apple tree.

Generally speaking, we ask ourselves questions like: ‘Does my house look perfect?’ ‘Is my outfit right?’ ‘Is my hair perfect?’ and, ‘Does my family look right?’ And, generally speaking, we get it wrong every time. Just as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, being right and being perfect is in the eyes of the beholder, too. Joe’s drawing of an apple tree looked right to me. And, in a world of ‘wee-honked’ trees, his drawing was a perfect addition to the mix.

I’ve just made a mountain out of a mole hill, eh? You may be thinking I’ve over-thunk being perfect, being right, being wrong and being different. Yes, well, you may be right. But hey, I’m not perfect.