Glass Half Full: Our children are not perfect — that’s OK
During a recent chat with a woman about my age, I was amused when she observed that, when her two children (now well into adulthood) were in grade school, apparently they and the offspring of a friend of hers were the only ones in their own classes who were not perfect.
I had to laugh, given the familiarity of that sense when Hillary and Allison were young, not to mention when I speak to many parents now.
I don’t know about you, but I was not a perfect child. Our daughters were delightful children in many, many ways. They weren’t perfect either. In fact, when our two girls were quite young and I apologized to my mother for all the whining I ever did, her response was that she didn’t remember I whined much.
Hmm. I suspect the reality is that I was a fairly cheerful little girl and my mother’s memory had faded significantly. I hasten to add that neither were Wayne and I perfect parents. What was nice about parenting when we were in the midst of doing so was that there was no expectation otherwise.
I believe there is a huge and unfortunate pressure on parents today to do everything perfectly. Raising children is not the same of accomplishing some project at work. It appears that folks are frequently willing and eager to judge others’ parenting skills against some unrealistic set of standards established by strangers.
I am not sure why the difference between my “back then” and now, but it was summed up perfectly by a mother a few years ago. We were all listening to a child psychologist who happened to have young children herself and was grounded in reality.
The discussion, at that particular moment, focused on what to do when it was time to leave a park, for instance, and a child refuses. The good doctor observed that she always gave her children a ten-minute warning, then another at five minutes. When the mother said, “But what if my son refuses?” the speaker cheerfully responded, “Then I’d pick him up and carry him to the car.”
At that point, the mom was courageous enough to observe, “I would be afraid other parents would judge me a bad parent.”
The feelings of children deserve to be considered. When possible and appropriate, they should be consulted. I believe giving children choices is an important part of helping them develop a sense of ownership and accountability.
The choices, however, should be limited and appropriate. Sometimes they will choose wisely. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they will decide to take actions that are completely surprising. They will, in fact, do just as we did.
The only children I really worry about are those whose parents believe they are perfect. That’s way too much pressure for any child to bear. Let’s relax a bit and accept non-perfection in ourselves and each other, especially our children.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.