Warning: A massive amount of rambling ahead…
Every now and then I think I know what I’m doing as a parent. You kinda get a high from it, actually. Bragging (let’s be honest, that’s what it is) to friends and family members about what your perfect angel has accomplished. How smart they are. How quickly they’ve learned something. How cute and personable they are. I mean, why not? They are exhibiting some of the best qualities YOU’VE given them.
But (and there’s a huge but), most of the time I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing (spoiler: I don’t) and I suck as it. Pretty hard.
It’s funny because, on paper I’m “doing it right” (whatever that means)…. I survived through the newborn days, I breastfed for 2 years (yes, 2), I didn’t let them watch TV until he was 2 (OK, I didn’t let B watch TV – it’s pretty much out the window with the 2nd one), I make sure to give them all of their vaccinations on time, I fed them according to the eating schedule (I still feed them, by the way), I survived sleep training (somewhat successfully) and they were potty trained at a reasonable age. They knew their colors and shapes going into preschool (thank you Primrose). L recognizes all of her letters and can write her name. B knew the fundamentals of reading, writing, and math before going into Kindergarten and is currently reading at a 3rd grade + reading level. Socially, they are pretty well adjusted. They are nice to others and are very empathetic. They make friends easily, are good natured, and they are generally pretty happy. Bonus: they play well together 75% of the time and can play quietly for long periods of time. I call that a win.
So what’s my deal?
As my kids get older I see MY flaws in them. I see my short temper and impatience. I see my stubbornness and inability to ask for help. I see my laziness. Not only is this terrifying to watch, but it’s the most challenging thing in the world to deal with because I feel like, at times, I am fighting with myself. As much as I enjoy a good “lessons learned”, I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around how to deal with these situations that arise. I am flailing like a fish.
At the same time, I think: Am I being too hard on them? I feel like instead of letting my 6-year old be a 6-year old I’m always pushing him and not necessarily in a healthy way. I’m stressing about homework, how he’s reading for 20-minutes a day, having him write in journal once a week (which is seriously like pulling teeth), making sure he gets a “green” in class, AND trying to make sure he eats enough healthy food and gets enough exercise.
Childhood, what childhood?
Sure his homework isn’t hard and he loves to read, but why so much pressure? When I was 6 my biggest concern was how to dress up my Cabbage Patch Doll. I wasn’t reading chapter books or doing simple multiplication and algebra problems. I wasn’t judged on my behavior in class and given a color each day based on my behavior. I WAS SIX. I liked coloring and dolls and playing house/school with my brothers and friends. While I watched plenty of movies and TV shows, I liked playing outside: wandering around in the woods behind my house, playing on the swing set, and chasing my neighbors down the street. I loved playing in the snow in the winter and swimming in the summer. I have wonderful childhood memories full of laughter, fun, and friendships.
I feel like I struggle to give this kind of childhood to my kids. There’s just a rush to get everything done NOW and as soon as possible. People are discouraging having best friends to avoid bullying. Kids aren’t taught the importance of failing (<–this is an excellent post, btw), which is ironic because I feel like all I am doing is failing them.
So…what to do? Well, for starters I need to chill the eff out. I’m not going to be able to change their environment or the rules they have to play. I don’t know WHY we are in such a rush to have them be ahead these days (don’t they all end up hating school at some point??), but there’s really not much I can do about that (and as much as I sound like I’m complaining, I actually really love B’s school AND teacher). The only thing I realize I can change is my behavior and make the hard stuff fun. I need to yell less. I need to find more patience. It’s gotta tucked back there somewhere.
I struggle the most with the behavioral issues. At home there’s so much attitude being flung around you’d think I was living with a pack of teenagers. Did I roll my eyes at my parents when I was 6? Then there’ s school at school — most days when B comes home with a “yellow” it’s because he’s talking. Do we punish that? Or do we make a big deal out of it? I love a good behavioral system (hello, undergrad in psychology) but it seems a bit…extreme? I know it’s a distraction for the teacher, but it’s not harming anyone. By letting it go am I letting him off the hook? There are only so many ways to tell your kid to shut it. We try all of them every morning on the way to school. We’ve tried
bribing him reinforcing good behavior by having him earn rewards. Obviously, he likes to talk. Unsurprisingly, L is the same way. We’re not getting out of the woods anytime soon.
Ultimately, I think what I have to do is stop thinking I’m going to be a perfect parent and that I’m going to raise the perfect children. There are things they aren’t good at. There are things they will struggle with. This is also true of myself. I need to realize that as much as my kids need to fail, I need to fail.
So, I’m taking the first step and I’m admitting it here. Most of the time, I am a parenting failure.
And guys? Being a failture is SOOOO much easier said than done. Who knew failing was so hard?
Do you have any advice for surviving the parenting perfection trap? How are you a parenting failure? I would definitely enjoy the company.