My fourth son was born just a few fast-moving months ago. I’m sure I’ve spent hours looking at his perfect little wrinkly toes, and dimpled hands, and rosy lips. I’m often overcome with the thought of how amazingly perfect he is.
I’ve found myself thinking that with this new little one, I’m a new parent all over again. And, as my wandering line of thinking goes, it’s a new opportunity to get things right. I can start over. I haven’t made any of my parenting mistakes yet. I get caught up in the fervor of perfect parenting all over again.
I’m snuggling this perfect little baby and I want everything in his life to be just as perfect. There are plenty of voices around to tell me (and all of us) how to get it just right. (If there’s any doubt, just do a Google search, or wait for a stranger on the street to offer up some sage wisdom.) These voices tell us about skin on skin bonding, eye gazing, and babbling. About developing good habits for sleeping, eating, and finding a rhythm for it all. They’ll tell us about additives to avoid and supplements to get. Nature trips to take and TV shows to moderate. They tell us about apps for brilliant babies, and also the dangers of technology. They’ll give us lists of books to fill every shelf in the house and give us enough enriching activities, clubs, and teams to constitute a full-time job. And they’ll tell us all about the importance of slowing down.
The longer I think about my proposed path to perfection, the more I become overwhelmed. Until I come to my senses.
Though my little one seems so perfect, wrapped in his blue blanket and snuggled to my chest, the reality remains that I’m not perfect. And quite honestly, I don’t know a perfect parent out there.
But as a parent, it’s easy to feel like perfection is what’s required– that it has a clear path and you’re the only one who hasn’t figured out how to get on it.
As the aphorism goes, perfect is the enemy of good. Kids don’t need perfect parents, they need good ones. Unfortunately, when good parents get too wrapped up in all the voices that tell them about those supposed paths to perfection, sometimes those voices drown out the more valuable voices coming from their own children. Careful comparison begins to take the place of thoughtful observation as parents try to keep up with other “perfect parents” and miss out on the individuality of their own family.
I’m a huge fan of learning and of doing better when you know better. But I can’t help but feel there’s some pressure out there for us parents to reach an impossibly high standard. Worse yet, there are messages out there telling some of us that any struggles our children face are a direct result of our failures. This isn’t true — and it isn’t healthy.
The idea of perfect parenting seems like a noble goal, but it’s a myth. We won’t be perfect, and our kids won’t either. But we can be good enough. We can be loving and happy and completely fulfilled, even with all our missteps. And our kids will be amazing — even if they’re average.
So I’m beginning a series of posts, all about this myth of perfect parenting. I’m hoping that by letting go of an unreal standard of perfection, we can all truly be good enough.
Here’s what’s coming up:
- Why Imperfect Parenting is Good for Kids
- How to Deal with Your Parenting Critics
- The Real Work of Parenthood
- Permission to Ignore Good Parenting Advice
- 100 Ways to Ruin Your Kids
- It’s Never Too Late
- *Bonus* Yeah. I’m THAT mom.
I think it’s something you’ll enjoy. And if, by chance, you have actually managed to become a perfect parent, I hope you’ll just tolerate the rest of us.