Does anyone out there remember that Milton-Bradley game, Perfection, from the 1970s and 1980s?
It was a plastic rectangular box, which housed a spring-loaded board which was filled with many small openings for geometric shapes. At the top of the box was a timer-dial and a toggle-switch. The game also included the small plastic geometric shapes (circle, star, hexagon, crescent, etc) which corresponded (or were supposed to, anyway!) to the openings in the board. The player was supposed to pile up all the pieces next to the outside of this plastic box, press down the spring-loaded board, turn the dial all the way, then press the switch to "ON". When this happened, the game would begin making a mechanical ticking sound, and the player was supposed to begin placing all the jumbled up pieces into the correct holes before the dial returned to its starting place.
If the player placed all pieces correctly, she could hit the switch and stop the game. WINNER!
If she failed, the board would spring up violently, shaking any correctly placed pieces out of their openings. AAAHHH!
As a child, I begged my parents in the weeks leading up to Christmas for Perfection. Like other kids, I wanted to be the "perfect" child from the TV commercial who beat the timer and won the game. I was positive I could do it, too. Positive. In fact this was a key selling point when I made my case to my parents.
You can imagine my devastation (and my parents' amusement) when, on Christmas morning, I tore open my new game of Perfection, set it all up, and proceeded to lose every time I played. Yup.
Perspiration. Hair-pulling. Gritting of teeth. Perfection being smashed into my bedroom wall. Talk about stress!
Why did I just go to all the trouble of explaining a retro (humor me) children's board game? Because the feelings it conjures up (besides nostalgia) accurately describe how I feel when I take all five of my children out in public.
Please do not misunderstand me. My children are usually remarkably well-behaved when they are out in public; especially, by today's standards. In fact, almost every time we venture out as a group, my husband and/or I receive more than one compliment on how courteous, how well-mannered, how quiet our kids are. And, we proudly acknowledge these facts.
However, these comments are almost always accompanied by the givers' astonished and incredulous expressions. It truly amazes most people that a family of such "enormous" size ("Enormous"? PUH-LEASE!) can behave in such a genteel manner.
So, of course, my neurotic personality interprets this to mean that my family and I are under a public microscope and should ALWAYS behave accordingly.
My perfectionist tendencies (I'm a first-born, after all!) will not accept failure. My family is representing large families everywhere. No one in MY family had better give "enormous" families a bad name!
Here's where I start having Perfection flashbacks...
"You can't wear that to church! You wore it LAST week!" (Like a 3-month-old knows what "week" means!)
"Shhh! Talk quietly. Everyone is staring at us."
"Now, guys, before we go into the store, let's review the rules: no yelling, no running, one hand on the shopping cart at all times."
Also, the perspiration, hair-pulling, and teeth-gritting come into play before we even leave the house. My kids should be grateful that I stopped throwing things into my bedroom wall when I was 15. At least, I stopped throwing living things.
Now, I know most good moms out there will tell me that even parents of one child have these kinds of feelings. Heck, I had these feelings when my oldest was an "only"! But, no one can deny that our culture has stereotyped larger families, and this stereotype is foremost in peoples' minds when they encounter more than 3 kids in a family. Why do you think I hate the remake of "Yours, Mine, and Ours" so much?
So, yes, I am probably unfairly placing a huge and unnecessary obligation on my kids' shoulders when I expect them to behave like mini-adults. I'm working on it.
But, if all 5 of my kids had a "bad behavior day" on the same day, at the same time, in the same PUBLIC place.... Well, what do you think people would think or say? It's very different than just one child publicly freaking out. That's bad enough.
So, you'll forgive me if I try to get my (sometimes) jumbled up "pieces" quickly into their "correct places" before the whole game explodes.