Alanis Morissette says, “If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love,” in the lyrics of her song “Perfect.”
To love someone can mean something entirely different from one person to the next. Some people believe that complete accountability is the way to show their love, while others believe that freedom in a relationship shows a deep trust that only love can bear. Growing up, I thought love meant simply wanting to spend the rest of your life with that one person you love. In a sense I was right, but there is much more to love than that simple definition.
Love is an emotion we cannot control. Understanding someone, however, is within our control and, while not always obvious, a necessary component of love. Children and teenagers, for example, are not always easy to understand. Their brains and bodies grow at an enormous pace, and this can be difficult for adults to remember. The neural tracts that begin in childhood continue well into the early 20s and account for emotion, behavior, cognition, etc. Stranger anxiety is a perfect example of brain development and outward display of emotion. At approximately nine months of age, neurons in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that deals with forethought, begin to connect, or synapse, with neurons in the occipital cortex, the part of the brain that deals with vision. When that baby can make the connection that she doesn’t recognize the person holding her, psychology takes over and she begins to cry.
Cerebral development goes on and on as children mature into teens and then into adults. Myelin, the fatty sheath that covers neurons and aids in transmission of brain signals, forms in toddlers and increases production again in the teenage years. So if your children forget to turn in their completed homework or can’t seem to remember to do their chores, you might be relieved to know that a good number of their peers are having the same problem. And, yes, it’s due in part to their brain development.
I think children are the most beautiful life-form on this planet. They are innocent and full of excitement. They learn from everything around them and want nothing more than to please their parents and earn their approval. If we can understand that they are doing their best with what little knowledge they have of the world and with a developing brain, then we can understand that they will make mistakes from which they will learn, and then we can be proud of them. With the right mix of accountability, freedom and reasonable expectations, our children can take the time they need to grow into happy adults, beautiful and full of love.
But what about the adults we love? They’ve had their chance to grow up and make sense of the world, and still, at times, we can make each other crazy with frustration. Of course, no healthy relationship is without some quarrel, but if you look at little annoyances in someone you love as reminders that they are still here with you, then you can appreciate the beauty they bring to your life and cherish your time together.
The song “Perfect” is about parents setting expectations that are unreasonable or too high for their children. We all want our children to be the best they can be, but understanding them and their abilities as they grow is what they need to achieve that goal.
I think making mistakes and not being perfect is a beautiful way to be loved, and that kind of love is flawless.