Reflection on perfection

Reflection on perfection

A few months ago my son eagerly asked if life could ever be perfect. It was a surprising question from an eight-year-old and led to a pleasant discussion about the chances people have to seek a perfect life. We came to the conclusion that, in reality, it's impossible for anyone to have all the advantages: in this case wealth, health, talent, physical beauty and happiness.

"Like, I'm happy, healthy and smart but not good in sports, right, Mum?" the boy volunteered.

As we are living among many demanding and perhaps in-denial parents who want their children to be "perfect", I'm so glad that my child has grown up to be a jaunty and confident boy who never takes deprivation and disappointment as a big deal.

I think it's important that, as parents, we don't plant an illusion into our kids' brains. Perfection is not the holy grail.

Unfortunately since real perfection doesn't exist, many parents are instead striving for a picture-perfect life.

From the day their children are born, they try to provide the best of what they can see for them _ whether it's accommodation, health care, education or recreation _ so that, for now and the future, these kids get to enjoy as much of a "perfect" life as they can. This determination results in childhoods of comfortable lodging, plenty of toys, emotionally stable households, orderly lifestyles, blameless homework and admirable grades. That, for me, is a toxic condition.

I know a mother who wouldn't tolerate any noise while her newborn was napping. The baby needed a peaceful environment to sleep in, so she said.

Of course, the child grew up to have a beautiful playroom waiting for her. The hygienic chamber allowed her to enjoy all those carefully selected educational toys peacefully, safely and "smartly". Whenever she was presented, family members would never shout or express negative emotions. The only language spoken in the household was "sweet happy language" and the girl was never imprecated or punished when she did something wrong _ the tactic was to focus instead on complimenting her good behaviour. I'm sure many other families are pursuing this so-called happy parenting approach. But isn't the reality their kids will encounter in the future the very opposite of what they are becoming familiar with now?

Some parents are too ambitious about ensuring their kids rise above others. They think that would give them high self-esteem and be helpful to their futures. But have they ever made sure these children would be able to survive if and when failure happens?

Two years ago when my son was first told to bring coloured pencils to school for art class, he came home and said a friend had a case of 98 different colours.

His set was a jumble of about 15 worn-out coloured pencils, many of them less than three inches long, of different god-knows-what brands in a zip-lock bag.

Of course, as a mother I would be gratified if my first-grader could enjoy premium quality coloured pencils and have all the shades he wanted. But would I be happy if my son became so accustomed to completeness that he might not be able to cope with deficiency?

I have prioritised what I want for my kid and that includes for him to be a person who can survive in reality. Being adults we know that life is a journey through infinite, and perhaps cruel, transitions and multiplicities. But our pure and unwordly children don't. They learn about life through the limited vision they have at their age.

Everyone needs a warm-up before an exercise session. College students need an apprenticeship before they can really step out from school into the career world. This is to better prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.

If the children are so used to a perfect environment during childhood, how can they adjust to the real world when they grow up? Will they be so distressed that they won't enjoy living anymore? Or will they continue to spend their life trying to do whatever it takes to get the best of everything? No mother would want to witness either consequence.

Even if we provide our kids with the ideal life we believe they're entitled to, I don't think that would make our kids good, happy grown-ups. What they really need are appropriate and constant guidance that comes with good examples. Punishment and harshness may be necessary on some occasions.

Keep in mind that picture-perfect living is different from having a perfect life. Since the latter is impossible, let's face the truth and teach our children to perfectly enjoy the imperfect reality.


Vanniya Sriangura is a feature writer and food columnist for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Vanniya Sriangura

Senior writer and food columnist of Life

Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist of Life.

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