A couple of months ago, Benjamin discovered the joys of blocks. His Aunt Birdy bought him a set of fifteen wooden blocks for Christmas, and ever since he's enjoyed stacking them knocking them over and yelling "yay" and transferring them from the toy bin to the couch to his mini kitchen. You know, the usual block activities. Then the other morning, something bad happened. I set out seven blocks in front of him, and he started to stack them. He is still learning, and he is occasionally clumsy and knocks them over before he is ready. Usually, he loves the knocking over more than the stacking, but on this particular morning he started to cry. The cry turned into a full-on scream, complete with red face, shaking limbs and tears. He was frustrated that he'd knocked down the blocks. Really frustrated.
"It's okay, Ben," I gently said, attempting to reassure him. I tried to show him that this was normal, that blocks fall down, that you can stack them again. He started to believe me, but then he knocked them over again, and he kept crying and trying to set up blocks and knocking them over again and crying. He did this again and again, crying harder each time, and I tried to distract him, but he wouldn't stop crying and stacking. Finally, after a full ten minutes of self-torture, he ran screaming out of his bedroom, away from the offenders and into the warm arms of Elmo on the television. He sat on his baby couch, put his thumb in his mouth, and sighed.
This event was horrible to watch. It was horrible because it was my fault. He inherited this affliction, perfectionism, from me, and here I was trying to explain it away. I wanted to tell him that blocks are made to fall down, that it is okay if you knock them over. Ben, you will be knocking down blocks your whole life. You have to learn to step away sometimes, to laugh, to come at them from a different angle. Or else you're going to end up like your mommy.