I was telling her about some of Kat’s anxieties, and perfectionism tendencies, and how she reacts when presented with scenarios she perceives to be negative.
“I don’t know how I ended up with this kid,” I tell my mom, mostly joking.
“You don’t?! Well….I can think of a few stories. When you were in preschool you couldn’t stand having any part of a coloring page be colored out of the lines, you would throw it away at the first mistake. You would get so upset at any crinkled papers, you would yell at me not to look at them and throw them out. Once you started to refuse to make your bed. I always required you to make it, but I also fixed it after you made it. The very fact I did that showed you it wasn’t good enough, and so you refused to do it at all because you couldn’t do it perfect. You cried when you got any school marks below the highest grade you could. You couldn’t tolerate any conflicts at all, you were so afraid that any conflict that people had with each other, even if it didn’t involve you, meant they were mad at you or that you had screwed up somehow. You were so much like Kat. Kat tends to yell and fight and kick out at people, though, while you never did that. You just tried harder to make people happy with you.”
“When I was her age, though? Really? She’s not even 5 yet.”
“Hmmm….yeah. I would say by 3, you had a perfectionistic streak, and a people pleasing steak….the people pleasing streak was kind of magnified by that perfectionist. And by Kat’s age, oh yeah, you were just like that,” Mom says.
“Yeah. Okay. I’m perfectionistic now. I believe it.”
We talk about how I make sense, being the child of two perfectionists who hate conflict and like happy, how our motto is almost “it’s not good enough” and how my little brother doesn’t make sense. His motto is “it’s fine, it’s not broken, it’s good like it is.” Two kids, one so much like her parents, the other the opposite. Mom talks about how she felt awful when the bed making incident happened, that she never wanted to make me into a perfectionist. I tell her I feel the same about Kat.
She tells me when I was 8, my perfectionist tendencies turned more OCD, and I would easily blame myself for anything that went wrong, be horribly upset and try to fix it if people weren’t happy and getting along. “You turned out all right, but sometimes I think I should have done something when you started being so obsessive.”
I don’t remember becoming obsessive, I’m just me. “What did I become obsessive about?” I ask.
“Oh, everything. Doing homework assignments days in advance and then checking and rechecking them, just in case something was wrong. You had this schedule in your head, and you would become panicked if we were off your schedule even by a minute. Being late wasn’t okay. You had to have all your clothes perfectly ironed, no wrinkles. You brushed your teeth after every meal, snack and would brush them 3 times. I don’t know what else. You would rewrite your notes from school to make your handwriting perfect, one letter looking a little messy was cause to start over,” Mom tells me.
It seems a lot changed when I was 8. I wonder what caused my behavior. Was it Kenny? But why when I was 8? That’s third grade. I have almost no memories that year. I remember my teacher, her high pitched voice. What else? I’m at a loss. There are no family, school, Holliday, vacation, ballet, gymnastics, horseback riding memories.
“Huh. Well, I don’t obsess to much anymore,” I tell mom. We both laugh because it’s not true.
We finish talking after another half hour or so. The question of what happened when I was 8 that made me change so much lingers in my mind.