Nobody’s Perfect on Mother’s Day

“Nobody’s perfect.”

A refrain most of us probably learned from our mothers. Could it be seen as defeatist?  Encouraging their sons and daughters toward mediocrity?

No. Of course not. That’s a silly notion, why would anyone even write that down? Mothers are right, of course, they often are. Nobody is perfect (yet some people are starting to get dangerously close, I’m looking at you Elon Musk).

Nobody’s perfect is not a plea for mediocrity, it’s a license to fail. Failing is okay. No, it’s good. Mothers tell us that you’re not going to be able to do everything, certainly not the first time, and that’s okay. Try and try again. If it’s not working for you, try something else, or try a different way.


This is a nugget of experience that’s importance shouldn’t be overlooked as far as I’m concerned.

The good mothers aren’t the ones who see their offspring as little units of divine perfection, who can do no wrong, and if they do something perceived as wrong, stand by them and change their views on what’s right and wrong. The good mothers know that nobody’s perfect, including their little gene basket. Nobody’s perfect so don’t worry about trying to be. Just be as good as you can be. Be your own version of perfect.

My mother is the person who taught me pretty much every valuable lesson in my life. “Maths isn’t your strong suit,” I remember her telling me. This was not a dig, or a put-down. This was not designed to make me give up and pursue other subjects that I could more readily take up and succeed at. No. It was, “maths is not your strong suit, so you’re going to have to work a bit harder at it.”

Humans are incredibly well-designed machines that are able to manage a vast array of tasks. What we can do physically, what our brains can do, (more powerful than any computer), what we can achieve with thought, knowledge, cooperation and effort is enviable in the animal world and it is a testament to the incredible story of evolution. But we can’t all do everything really well. So when my mother told me that maths wasn’t my strong suit, and I’d have to work harder at it, than say, spelling, that’s what I did (I assume; I passed my exams). This on its own was an outstandingly significant lesson. Work a bit harder at what you find difficult. In other words, “don’t be looking for excuses.” Which is another lovely motherly refrain.

I think it’s fair to say, the less well-equipped mothers are the ones who would go and blame the teacher. “My son the perfect prodigy is struggling at maths because you’re an incompetent teacher!”

No. Nine times out of ten the teacher is probably doing a great job. Probably struggling to get the best of out a hindered gene basket that has been told that the sun shines out his arse since he was old enough to know what an arse was.

A little bit of hard grind was the lesson, and it’s a damn good one. Don’t be making excuses.

I’m sure this has been a feature of good mothering since day one. I wouldn’t be surprised if Leonardo Da Vinci’s mother once told him, “nobody’s perfect”, (this might be the one time the mother was wrong) he would have proceeded to say, “we’ll see about that.”

“You can’t do everything, Leo.”

“Watch me, Mama.”

So. Nobody’s perfect. Two simple words with such elegant and wonderful meaning. Nobody’s perfect, but to me, the closest anyone has managed to perfect (sorry Leo da Vinci and Elon Musk) is my mother. Not quite perfect, but a damn fine effort.


To all the mothers out there: Happy Mother’s Day. Put the feet up, you’ve earned it.


My mother and I -
My mother and I circa 1993 (ish). She picked out that hoody I’m wearing, which proves her legendary status.