As a child, I was a total over-achiever. I got great grades and really pushed myself to be “perfect.” I got stress-related headaches throughout my childhood due to this drive for perfection.
When I was in elementary school, maybe fourth or fifth grade, I was tested for the gifted program. I remember being so nervous about taking the test, hoping I’d do well and have the word “gifted” applied to myself. I don’t remember much from the test, but one part of it is crystal clear, as I knew while taking the test that I was failing big time on this one. It was a blank page with a simple shape in the center (a footprint). The instructions were to create something using the shape. So, I’m sitting there staring and staring at this stupid footprint, wondering what I’m going to make out of it. In the end, I ran out of time and just drew wavy lines inside of it and titled it “Tennis Shoe Footprint.” I felt totally defeated. I did not get placed in the gifted program, and I blamed that damned footprint.
After the test, I thought often of that footprint and what I might have made with it. I think the most creative I got was making it into a butterfly (draw another footprint shape and attach the two with a stretched out oval – the body of the butterfly). Why didn’t I think of that when faced with the test? Would that have gotten me accepted into the program?
It has been 30 years since I took that stupid test and I still sometimes find it popping up in my head, a reminder of failure. Never mind that I was considered for the program, an achievement in itself. I thought of it this morning and imagined Monkey in this scenario. I hope to attach that memory to doing all I can to avoid such feelings for Monkey. I hope that he is not anxious and tense as I often was as a child, working so hard to reach the unattainable (perfection). Sure, I want him to strive to do and be his best, but I hope that he feels pride even when he fails because he put himself out there and tried. Like his Mama did those many years ago.