A little more than a month ago, I was at a party for a group of moms from a playgroup. I forget the context exactly, but I was talking about my daughter’s stubbornness about cleaning.
“Her room is constantly a mess. The only way that I can get her to clean is to put on Disney radio,” I told the few moms gathered around me. “I absolutely love her, but she is a slob.” The shock that hit their faces surprised me.
“How old is she, four? She can’t be a slob!” One of the moms was particularly offended by what I was saying. Surely, I must be exaggerating. Surely, my daughter is a complete princess that has magical fairies to clean up after her. [Insert sarcasm].
It is often that I come into contact with women who may cross the line into overly praising of their children. The new mom who constantly posts picture of her newborn who she absolutely adores and could do no wrong. The woman who told me at the store about how her three year old is her best friend. The mom who conveniently finds a way to talk about her child’s many accomplishments every single time we have a conversation. The young mom who counts her frustrations as blessings. When did we come to the age where we are expected to be the end-all for our children, where our entire lives and beings are dedicated to them?
Now, please don’t mistake what I am trying to get across. I see nothing wrong with being proud of your children, of being absolutely in love with them. I completely adore mine, but that doesn’t mean that I will pretend that all is perfect in the world of parenting. And I cannot understand the women that do. The women who paint this picture of the absolute perfection– I have to wonder if it is all a facade. Why is it no longer okay to complain about our children? Why is it no longer okay to be realistic about the fact that, sometimes, parenting sucks?
Despite my sentiments, I often struggle with my abilities as a parent. I stress endlessly about the steps I take and how those steps will affect my children in the long run. I went without sleep for days when I worried that homeschooling my son for a year prior to first grade had a negative effect on him. I worry that my preoccupation with my own schooling is hurting the fact that my five year old daughter is not already at the first grade level, because that is the expectation these days. I pay the extra money for the organic juices because kids shouldn’t have too much chemicals and sugar. I try to limit video games and tablet time because too much will ruin them. In all of this stressing, I forget that this all comes from the newest societal pressures to be the most outstanding and perfect parent.
I think that we forget that our parents weren’t perfect. That they only tried their best. My mom was far from it. She yelled when she had to, and sometimes when she didn’t have to. She spanked us when it was necessary. She worked too much, because that is exactly what had to be done. I watched too much TV as a kid. I spent a lot of time outside, unsupervised. I ate things that I shouldn’t, and my meals weren’t always perfectly balanced. But you know what? I am okay. I have turned out to be a semi-functioning adult with minimal issues.
And I am far from being the perfect parent. I cuss a lot. I let them watch entirely too much television. I do not try to be their best friend. I yell often. The phrase ‘in a minute’ can mean anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours for me. I don’t play with them as much as I probably should. I let life get in the way far too often.
But I know that I must be doing some things right. How do I know this? I watched this morning as my seven year old waited the few extra minutes so that he could open the door to the school building and hold it for the group of kids running to class to be on time. His kind gesture, that small gesture, told me absolutely everything that I needed to know.
And it was a glorious moment as a parent.