In October a friend and former neighbor of mine published a book called HOW TO BE THE PERFECT PARENT. Other than minor jealousy, after all, I too was a writer about to embark on a potential blogging career, I asked myself what qualified her to be the perfect parent. Thus began a two-month journey in which I examined the truth behind parenting, or at least the truth according to Janice (that’s me, the author of Reflections).For two months I’d planned this post. I attempted but failed to write a post explaining how to be the perfect parent. I intended to explain that since I was the perfect parent, I was qualified to write this on those grounds. The words never came. When I failed to pen the answer to the age-old question, “How to be the perfect parent,” I assumed this would take a point/counterpoint format in which I argued in favor of perfection and simultaneously against it. Still, the words never came. They never came because after two months of soul-searching I’ve come to the realization that I disagree with my friend. I haven’t read her book; I haven’t seen her book. I’ve only heard of it. I don’t plan on doing either because after two months of exploration, I realize there isn’t a word her book could tell me that would substitute for my first-hand experiences. They all add up to one realization. Perfection is not a goal parents should want to attain.
The First Lie Your Children Tell You
How about, “Mom or Dad, everyone is doing it.” There are so many examples of this.
- Everyone is failing, so it’s okay
- No one does their homework, so I don’t have to do it either.
- Everyone (chews gum, does pot, other, pick one), so nobody cares.
Parents, please don’t believe these. You will look so gullible your children will lose respect for you.
The Second Lie Your Children Tell You
Mom or Dad, if you want us to be close, you must be my friend, and friends would ignore my rule breaking. Give my a break. Unfortunately, parents are so desperate to be close with their children they lose perspective. I once read an interview with an actor who explained his parents gave him drugs as a child, and they all did drugs together. Today he wishes he’d had parents who wanted to be parents instead of just his friends.
The Third Lie Your Children Tell You
You must be a perfect parent. My daughter Dana told me I could not be a perfect parent due to my baggage. I wanted to tell her, insist, maintain (it was that important to me it bore repeating three times) that I was perfect despite my imperfections. I have reached the point that I don’t care because I no longer seek to be the perfect parent, and here’s why.
- First, experience gives us wisdom we pass on to our children no matter how old they get. Our wisdom keeps growing until we’re planted in the weeds. There’s an expression for those religious types. It goes, “God isn’t finished with me yet.” I’m not finished, so I’m not perfect. What would my friend say to her children in ten years? She reached perfection in her fifties when she wrote the book so she has nothing more to add? I will always have more advice to give my kids as I continue to evolve as a person.
- There’s another expression (I’m into expressions) that says, “Show me a happy man, and I’ll show you a failure.” When you are happy, in this case feel you’ve reached perfection, you stagnate. It is the opposite of growth and evolution. Contentment is not happiness; it is stagnation. Bullet two goes with bullet one. If stagnation is bad, (and I maintain it is,) perfection is bad because you can’t get any better than “perfect.” It’s perfect, so by definition you can not grow once achieving it.
- Many of my readers know I’m a school teacher. I was once told never to give a student an A+. The logic is the same. An A+ means the assignment was done perfectly. The student can not do better next time, so it is impossible to try to grow.
- Here’s another quote for you. A father was smoking in front of his children which I do not approve of since second-hand smoke is toxic. His daughter told him that a perfect parent would never smoke. He responded by explaining, “If I were perfect, I’d be insufferable.” In other words, perfection is boring.
- Janice is on a roll, here is another quote: “Security is mortal’s greatest enemy,” according to Shakespeare in his play “Macbeth.” Do not be secure in your relationships with your children. There is a huge change between ten and twelve physically and emotionally. At ten children still cling (figuratively if not literally) to their parents. By twelve, they have started to pull away from parents as they near adulthood. I’ve knownparents who took that elementary-school-age clinginess for closeness, and then they were blindsided when it went away. Do not take your closeness with them for granted. You do reap what you sow. (Another quote, I know.)
In closing, I have three daughters. Dana, my oldest, wanted perfection from me but felt it was not achievable due to my “baggage”. Rachel, my youngest, on the other hand, told the girl I thought was her best friend that her best friend was in fact…me. (Hayley and I have not discussed the topic.) Before leaving for college this fall, Rachel told me that I did a “good job” as a mother. It’s okay that my oldest doesn’t consider me perfect. I’ll keep trying to grow as a parent and a person and, for the reasons I’ve given, hope that I never achieve perfection.
Readers, what do you think? Is perfection a desirable trait in parents? I look forward to your views.