Family / parenting

For When You Are an Imperfect Parent

You. Hey, you! Psssst, yeah, you- the dejected-looking woman with damp spit-up drying down the length of your right arm and swollen eyes from crying periodically throughout the day.

Congratulations! You made it to bedtime.  Take a breather, sister. Sit down, stay awhile.

Let’s not mince words. Today was rough for a multitude of reasons. A million tiny things throughout the day demanded your attention, a million niggling thoughts reminding you that you could have done things differently or better, a child reminding you of how you’ve failed, another who rewards your hauling him around town with spit-up and a large, unruly poop.

You called your kid an asshole to his face today. Okay? Not your proudest moment, not the adultiest thing you’ve ever done, but in your defense, he was, in fact, being an asshole. Instead of gently prodding the outer limits of your patience, testing for the weak spots with his fingers, he indelicately punched a hole in the upper echelon of your tolerance and your restraint escaped into the atmosphere like helium out of a balloon.

You immediately regretted it, you poor little thing, even though it had the intended effect of getting him to momentarily stop his mouth from arguing with you, which seems to be its sole purpose these days.

Even after apologizing, in the hours after, your mind came up with all of these narratives about how you’ve ruined him. He’ll never trust you again. As an adult, he’ll lay his head on the therapist’s couch and begin, “It all started downhill when my own mother called me an asshole.”

Of course, these runaway thoughts are not all yours. Many of them were planted there by the plethora of pearl-clutching parenting wisdom that plagues social media these days.

“You should just go ahead and purchase a child-sized coffin if you give your child even one Flaming Hot Cheeto.”

This world is quick to offer advice or happily sell you on something that promises perfect parenting, and perfect children, are just over the next little bump. If you could just xyz, then all your problems will disappear. Unfortunately, this is a mirage. You can continue to chase these false promises, if you like, but you will never reach Destination Perfect.

Perfect parenting doesn’t exist, lady.

Despite your best efforts, you are but a lowly human and you will continue to be one.

I think I’ve figured out why holy men and women commit themselves to celibacy. It’s not because sex is evil or a distraction. It is because they know that parenting would break them. Were the Dalai Lama to descend from his mountainous abode to switch places with you for a month, I’m certain that he would, at the very least, be tempted to mutter, “རྐུབ ཞལ” at some point during the 31 days where he gets to repeatedly stick a floppy toddler’s legs into the holes of a gait trainer and continually field complaints and arguments from a sullen teen who cannot seem to stop himself.

You are doing the best that you can with the information that you have. In the current children’s fantasy series you’re reading, there are several seers who offer prophecies to wayward travelers. If only you had your own seer, perhaps a tiny woman who lived in your closet who could tell you what each day holds.

Alas, there is no miniature prophetess hiding among your shoes and so you must stumble along without the benefit of foresight like the rest of us lowly humans.

You are doing the best that you can.

The critical part of you, the part that screams and thrashes and predicts disastrous results when you call your kid an asshole, wants to say, “WAIT A MINUTE. NO, SHE’S NOT. SHE CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER.” And, of course, there’s always time for self-reflection, blah, blah, blah. Too little self-reflection isn’t your problem, sister.

Give yourself a break. You cannot shoulder everything that you shoulder without breaking sometimes.

And, you know what? Just like you, these kids you’re raising are resilient. They’ll bounce back from your not being an emotionless robot. At least, they have thus far.

You’re doing the best you can.

Let’s remember this, shall we?

Especially on days, like today,  when you are an imperfect parent (so, really, let’s just remember it every day).

6 thoughts on “For When You Are an Imperfect Parent

  1. Self-care includes monitoring and changing self talk like you have demonstrated here.

    As a fellow Type 1 on the Enneagram, I smell that familiar internal perfect standard that never takes a vacation.

    You have evidently learned the hard way that the ever-present critic leads to emotionally beating up internally and sometimes exploded verbally.

    You have wisely learned to mother your tender heart amidst the crazy roller coaster of life.

    Can you believe that there are actually 8 other Enneagram ways that humans view the pilgrimage of this life? Sometimes that helps me to know that perfectionism is not the only internal standard.

    Your candor and humor is a huge blessing to mothers and non-mothers.

    THANKS again for your transparency.

    I enjoy the elegant ways to wrap fuzzy experiences with approachable words.

    • The enneagram language has done wonders for me. I recognized that little critic today and was mostly able to tell her to shut up.

      I went to Sara and Kara’s enneagran workshop and it was extremely eye opening. When the 7s were sharing their internal experience, i was completely baffled! Always grateful to have another 1 alongside me, John

      • When I shop for groceries I am away from my laptop where I invest most of my waking hours. So to fill that time and not get too distracted I listen to podcasts on the Enneagram. I have learned MUCH about the Enneagram from various experts for free. And I did not make as many impulse purchases.

  2. Celibacy bc parenting would break them! 😂😂 this is the best thing I’ve heard in a looong time. Thank you for this whole post. Just today I called one of my children not just an asshole but a lazy asshole so 👊. Right there with ya. Today I will hold my head high with the knowledge that if it weren’t for these kids I could be the freaking Dalai Lama.

  3. We can be holy women when these kids aren’t underfoot anymore.

    Maybe this explains why grandmothers are so loved and revered.

    Their soul has endured and been shaped by the many trials of motherhood. Yet in their latter years, they bring wisdom, grace, and love without so many reactions. PLUS they get to take time out between visits.

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