For the last week or so I’ve felt like I was ahead of Halloween in a way that felt good. We baked cookies, I bought a few decorations (because for some reason we’ve never had any, and that suddenly felt like a problem I needed to address), I started playing the kids’ Halloween playlist on the way to school on Friday, and I was making what felt like great progress on Vivi’s costume and had a solid plan for the boys. Then tonight I realized that I needed to rip out a seam and move some things, and when I stitched the skirt together one side seemed totally off and I couldn’t figure out how to put in the elastic, so I decided to put it aside and start on Jonah’s costume, only to discover that I bought the wrong color duct tape. Suddenly I was overcome by a wave of panic and felt my confidence slipping away. I know that this happens every year, and somehow I’m still always caught off guard. I think that I’m particularly nervous this year because K and I have to go out of town for a wedding next weekend so I’m losing a whole weekend that I’m sure I’d otherwise spend working on costumes.
If I’m being rational, Vivi’s is really 80% done. I’m having a hard time guessing how long it might take for me to finish the boys’ costumes (neither has been started yet), and as always I have no illusions that I’ll have time to create anything for K or I, which is fine because this is really about the kids and that’s our norm.
I always reach this point of melting down over my need for their costumes to be perfect and my fear of failing and not getting everything done in time, but lately I’m more acutely aware of how those forces in my personality model really awful things for my kids. I feel like far too often I find myself modeling worry and perfectionism and the constant need to hurry for fear of not meeting a deadline or schedule. I’ve never been good at making mistakes and just letting them go, and I’m terrified of raising kids who are just like me. I do have moments in which I’m proud to be making it up as I go along, sewing without any sort of pattern or instructions, committed to figuring it out with the knowledge that it might be imperfect and the willingness to risk that. But the moments that really stick in my mind and keep me up at night (literally) are the ones more like tonight: when the fear of failure takes over.
I know that learning to do anything takes time, and every year I’m making costumes I’ve never made before. I try to remind myself that I can’t get good at something without those early stages of trial and error, but my instinct is always to panic and melt down. Tonight there’s no one to melt down to, however, so I decided to write it down instead. I’m on a mission of sorts to do something about this anxiety and perfectionism so that maybe I can show my kids another way. Tomorrow: exchange the duct tape and call in my mom’s two cents on the problems with the skirt, and maybe tell the kids about all of it so that I can show them what it looks like to keep trying.