I am someone who has incredibly high expectations. I am not sure when in my life it happened that my standards became so high. I was joking with a few colleagues the other day about how I was raised and how my dad used to vehemently remind us to do it right the first time. I know there are many ways of looking at the world, and that making mistakes is one where we learn the most. That, however, was not how I was raised. I distinctly remember a few specific examples. One time my sister and I were asked to clean our room (we shared a room). We cleaned it, but not to my dad’s standards. When we got home from wherever we were that afternoon, we walked into our room and found every drawer of our respective dressers empty, and every desk drawer empty, and the contents of our shared closet all sat in a massive mixed pile in the middle of the room. I remember him barking some sort of comment to us: “Maybe next time you’ll do it right the first time.”
I was horrified. I do not remember how long it took us to clean it up, or what my sister and I discussed during the process, but I will never forget what my room looked like that day. Now, I can think about a million other ways to get through to kids, and whether my dad was right or wrong, he was definitely creative about getting our attention. He also was a bit scary. I do think his “get it right the first time” mantra in some ways made me use problem solving tactics and critical thinking skills at an early age. You see, my dad could turn a million different ways and I had to be prepared for it, so I thought: “if I do this, what will be the outcome?” or “how about if I do that?” I was not always so savvy to be prepared for how he might react, but I was definitely aware of the consequences of my actions. Never mind that I probably should have just been out playing.
There was another occasion when it was my chore to scrub the bathtub, specifically the soap scum ring. On one occasion when my dad inspected the bathtub (it was a pink bathtub too), to see if it passed his inspection, he decided it was not clean enough and that I needed to start again. In order to ensure I would have to clean the entire bathtub again (and not just work on the soap scum) he poured ketchup into the tub. Again I was horrified. I just wanted him to show me where I missed a spot, and give me a chance to fix it. Starting again felt so unfair. Maybe that is why I detest cleaning the shower/bathtub (thank you Chris).
Did my dad ingrain in me the desire for higher standards? Maybe. Did he know he was doing it? I do not think so. I think I am a by-product of finding creative ways of knowing I had dotted all my i’s and crossed my t’s. I had a backup plan for my backup plan. My brain constantly looks for all the different scenarios and which ones to stay away from and which ones lead to the best possible scenario. It has helped me at home and in my professional life. There are way better ways to teach critical thinking skills and to learn consequences for different choices. I will not be passing on the ways of my father.