Sunday, November 17, 2013

When Good Enough is Good Enough

I will never again volunteer to be a “room mom.” Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time the year I volunteered for my son’s Pre-K-3 class, but it was way too much pressure. I remember frantically attempting to plan the perfect Halloween party with Martha Stewart-esque crafts and healthy yet adorable snacks and awesome yet educational games with fun, non-junky prizes. I just about gave myself a nervous breakdown. 

“I can’t fail these preschoolers!” I said to a friend of mine.

She shook her head and said, “You’re thinking about this all wrong. You can’t fail these preschoolers.” I looked at her, puzzled. She said, “You could show up with microwave popcorn and a bag of sticks and balls and they would have a blast. They’re preschoolers!”

And she was right. I wasn’t the most organized or the most creative, and none of the crafts we did that year would end up on anyone’s Pinterest page. But we always had fun. It was an important lesson to learn. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

With hundreds of parenting websites, magazines, and blogs touting the hundreds of ways that you, too, can be an amazing parent and do amazing things with your amazing kids simply and easily, it makes you feel rather substandard when you don’t. It’s as if we must all excel, always, at everything.

And we pretend to. After all, it’s easy to keep up the ruse when we can instantly post our finest accomplishments and most beautiful moments online for all to see. It makes it easy to forget that the vast majority of moments in other people’s lives are just as ordinary as our own. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We don’t have to be fabulous all the time. Are your kids walking out the door in the morning dressed in visibly clean clothes and carrying lunches that contain at least two of the major food groups? Great. That’s good enough. You don’t have to form space creatures with their crackers and grapes or custom-make your daughter’s hair ties to match her outfits. You can if you want to, but it’s not necessary to be a good parent or to have happy children.

Sometimes good enough is good enough.

During National Novel Writing Month, I’ve had to embrace this concept with new ferocity. The exercise of writing quickly and regularly in order to achieve a word count rather than a quality end product has challenged me in new ways. I’m currently 19,000 words into what will become a 50,000 word manuscript by the end of the month. Left to my own critical, self-editing devices, I would have stopped and restarted this manuscript at least ten times by now, to correct a storyline or weave in some missing backstory, or to better establish my character from the beginning. All important things, true, but all things that can wait for the revision process. But I often allow these concerns to burden my first draft (and, in fact, prevent it getting written in the first place).

I need to recognize that, on the first draft as with preschool parties, good enough is often good enough.

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