27 February 2008

Parenting: No amount of practice makes perfect, nor should it

In response to my guest post on Zen Habits yesterday, Bee left the following fascinating comment:

…just please, please, please leave gaps in your shiny optimised parenting to get wrong and messy.
Teaching kids how to surf on the crest of chaos and anarchy, is one of the most useful life skills we can impart. Though we need to be free (and admittedly organised) enough to play; we cannot let the processes rather than their personhood become the goal.

To which I replied:

I just had to respond to Bee with an emphatic YES... ...None of us wishes difficulty on our kids, but there’s no other way for them to learn just how strong and resourceful they are. Smoothing the path too much can be as problematic as anything else.
What that means to me? Freedom, license even, to be imperfect. Responsible, loving, and imperfect.

It always good to be reminded that perfection is never the goal, for our kids or for ourselves.

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As a soon-to-be-dad I could not agree more with Asha! In fact, it is our objective in teaching our child that we let them fall flat on their faces, both literally and figuratively. Our role as a parent is, in our mind, to open doors, and apply bandages. We will teach them how to respect others, but self respect has to be earned. We will give them confidence that we will always be there, but self confidence they have to earn.

No lesson is remembered better then the one that cost us something.

It can be hard when you screw up to tell/show/explain it to your kids. But if I'm unemotional about it (and look at the refried bean casserole in the shattered glass pan all over the kitchen floor and then take a deep breath) and say, "Wow, grownups spill too. What a mess." Those are the moments I'm able to laugh at myself and hopefully relieve tension for all of us.

I know I learned more from my parents' mistakes than they thought I would (except my mom, who kind of expected us to use her mistakes as a guide as much as she'd done with her own parents). My mom is a retired minister, and one of the things she often said about ministry is that part of the job is to bleed publicly, and then heal publicly, so that the congregation can see that their own wounds are not solitary experiences, and the path to healing is something everyone can tread.

Likewise with parenting. If I'm not being visible that I've messed up, bitten off more than I can chew, am feeling overwhelmed with a new responsibility, need to problem-solve my way out of a mess, need to resolve a conflict of my own, and/or am in need of some comfort and advice from someone else, then I'm NOT doing my job. Over-perfecting it isn't possible for me (I have four very different kids, I know better, LOL!) ... and hiding all that only hides that it is normal to feel those things, do those things, expect those things to be normal parts of life. Messing up - and then UNmessing up, visibly and openly - are critical to my parenting.

I counted it one of my best days as a parent when my then-9-year-old son said to me, 'Mom, you really struggle with this parenting thing, don't you?' WOO! Yeah, son, I do. Every day, you grow and develop and advance, without announcing the changes. Every day, I have to learn, adapt, keep up, and try to be effective. Every day, I have opportunities to totally blow it, as well as opportunities to hit the mark. If I never blew it, that would just be weird (and I'd wonder when the other shoe would drop, and how hard!). If I never admitted I blew it, that would be dishonest. If I never asked for your patience or forgiveness, that would be disrespectful. What you see is me, doing my best in a challenging situation, and making up for where I've failed with as much integrity as I can muster. The fact that you can even ask me that question, openly and without fear, means that I have proven the case - you asked because you recognized the weakness, and felt it safe to bring to my attention, knew that I would not strike out at you for your recognition of my failings. The compassion in the tone of voice also was an honor to hear, as was the willingness to listen to the details I provided in response to the question.

Yes, parenting is hard. There is no way to do it all right. Struggling with it is the right thing to do, and I am glad I have to struggle, so that I know how to overcome, make amends, analyze and problem-solve, and model doing those for each of my kids.

So, yeah, hooray for surfing on the crest of chaos, and for crashing under the wave as well. How better to model adapting to the life one finds oneself in, and picking oneself back up and carrying on again when life zigs and I zag?

Great post and great tips!! Children are always enthusiastic about growing in life to become excellent individuals. Thus, they usually have the urge to prove their mark in which ever way they can. The only thing they require to be a champion is the support of a good parent like you. You as a parent can boost their morale to a great extent. In fact, a parent’s influence on a child is the utmost. This is the place from where I get great tips for parenting http://www.goodparenting.co.in

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