Monday, November 2, 2009
Do you know Eddie Haskell? If you grew up on “Leave it to Beaver” re-runs like I did, you know he is the perfectly groomed suck-up who tries to win adults over with flattery and impeccable manners while wreaking havoc behind the scenes. I remember how he’d pour on the charm with Mrs. Cleaver (who wasn’t buying it), and then turn around and act like a real turd to the Beav.
Maybe you have a real-life Eddie (or Edwina) Haskell in your or your children’s lives. You’ll note charm, looks, intelligence-- all the outward appearances of perfection. Then every once in a while you get a glimpse of an inner Eddie/Edwina. Perhaps it’s a quick elbow jab to a younger sibling when no one appears to be watching. A cutting remark. A mean ploy that the teacher never sees, but all the kids do. A desire for division instead of unity.
I’ve been trying to understand why Eddie, and the modern day equivalents in my own life, get under my skin so much. I think it’s because I want genuine kindness, not perfection. I think perfection is not only over-rated, it’s impossible. And I believe that when we are real with each other, everyone benefits. Eddie isn’t about being real. Eddie is about projecting an image.
I think back to when I was a new mom and my son was perfect. He used baby sign language, showed early brilliance and a keen sensitivity to all around him. To listen to me talk you would have thought he would get his doctorate by age 6, followed shortly by the Nobel Prize.
When I came to realize that he wasn’t perfect, my baby daughter wasn’t perfect, and neither was their mother (for some reason I had accepted this fact about Tom much earlier)…. it was a momentary bummer, but it was somehow freeing. I think it helped me become a less self-righteous and annoying parent.
I tell myself when I run across seemingly perfect kids (at least when their life stories are narrated by one or both parents), that there is likely at least a tad of behind the scenes drama somewhere. Maybe it’s screaming meltdowns during homework or a refusal to practice the piano… but something!
My kids are thoughtful and kind. Often. They care about the poor and the disenfranchised. Sometimes. They are well groomed. On occasion.
Other times they leave people out. They are grumpy. They play favorites. They don’t make eye contact. They mumble. They are selfish. They choose popularity over what’s right.
And you know what? That describes me too. Depending on the day, my hormones, my Diet Pepsi intake, and whether or not I’ve stopped to pray.
I wish we didn’t have a conspiracy of silence, in which we all pretend that everything’s great all the time. I wish other moms would share their kids’ problems so I could share mine. I wish I didn’t have the urge to unmask all the little Eddie and Edwinas, as if bringing them down a notch would somehow build me up.
I guess I wish none of us were sinners. As if.