Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a mommy. So when I finally became one, I wanted to do it right. No, not just right. Perfect. I read every parenting magazine with articles on communicating and respecting feelings, disciplining, potty training and helping with homework. Little did I know I was setting myself and my family up for failure. When things got tough, the magazine writers wouldn’t be there to whisper in my ear without my children’s knowledge: “Be still, stay calm, be patient, be silent and listen.”
But instead of being a level headed mother, I tend to react. My spirited son, Jared, really knows how to get my goat. Once when filling out an application to assist me with Sunday school, he responded to the question, “Why do you want to work with children?” with “Because my mother forced me to!” Of course I was mortified, though the director of the program only laughed. He said he appreciated Jared’s honesty. Did that mean I’d done something right? Was it okay to be imperfect?
Not many people really share the good, the bad and the ugly that comes along with parenting. Over the years it’s seemed like every parent had it together except me! I couldn’t share that I wasn’t the most loving mother all of the time, wasn’t patient or calm in every situation… I could go on. Kyle Pruett, a clinical professor at Yale University, argues that “there is a pervasive myth in our culture that we must be perfect or we have failed our children,” and goes on to say that, “I’ve never done a single thing perfectly. What makes me think I can do the hardest job I’ll ever do perfectly?” I wish I would’ve read that along with all of those parenting magazine articles.
By focusing on doing everything perfectly, I often robbed myself of the joy of just being with my kids. When I make mistakes and bounce back from them, I’m helping my children learn to do the same. We’re only human. Instead of focusing on what I could be doing better, I should focus on what I’m already doing right. I have had to learn as a parent to focus on today, and to forgive myself for all my past (and future!) parenting mistakes. I hope someday my children will, too.