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Come What May

How I learned to let go of having the “perfect” child

By Kelle Hampton |

If there’s one regret I have from January 22, 2010 — the day my second daughter was born — it’s not that I cried when they told me she had Down syndrome or that I didn’t feel immediately bonded to the baby placed in my arms. I forgive myself for doing what was perfectly natural to do: react to the news that she was different from what I had imagined her to be and grieve at the reality of the challenges she’d face.

What I do wish I could go back and change is the pressure I put on my sweet baby to be so much. I expected her to be perfect, when her only job was to surrender to the miraculous series of events that formed her — those split cells and constructed organs that created her just as she was. For a tiny helpless baby, I expected of her something I don’t even expect of myself — perfection — and for that I am sorry.

The thing is, I knew better. I mean, this was my second child, and if there’s one thing I learned from my first, it’s that you can expect nothing of your children but love. Expect an extrovert? You might get an introvert. Expect a boy? You might get a girl. Expect a high-kicking, soccer-loving little athlete, and your kid might stand on the sidelines — after all that money you spent on the uniform and the team fee and the cute legwarmers that match the cute cleats — and cry, begging you never to make her play again. (Yes, I know that last one from experience.)

I'm learning to replace the ideal dreams of who my child will be tomorrow with the beauty of who she is today.

But I did it. I got sucked into the trap of idealism, and I let the perfection parasite eat up everything I knew to be true within — that nothing is guaranteed when you have a baby except one thing: you will love. Consequently, you will experience both happiness and hurt because love is, by definition, both of those things.

While much of my grief those first few months after welcoming my daughter understandably had to do with the sadness of knowing the challenges she’d face, I wonder how much of it was wrapped up in this perfection facade. How much grief and disappointment can we avoid in parenting altogether when we let go of our expectations of our children?

It’s hard in this day and age when everything is so beautifully packaged and custom-ordered, to let go of perfection, but when we do there is far less disappointment. Redefining perfection is a constant goal for me, one that applies not only to parenting, but to every aspect of life. So many of the hard moments can be made a little easier simply by realizing they won’t be so easy and perfect. In the great words of M. Scott Peck, “Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Once we let go of our great expectations, raising and loving our children immediately becomes easier. I’m learning to replace the ideal dreams of who my child will be tomorrow with the beauty of who she is today. And when I truly understand and embrace that fact, I am a happier mama, and my children thrive, free from the expectations that may have pressured them to be something they were not.

We cannot control who our children will be — shy, outgoing, short, tall, quiet, loud, creative, athletic, a chromosome under, a chromosome over — but we can surely appreciate who they are and accept that what makes our children happy, what makes them come alive, is exactly what makes them perfect.

Visit HarperCollins to purchase Kelle Hampton’s newly released book, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected — A Memoir.

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About Kelle Hampton

kellehampton

Kelle Hampton

Kelle Hampton is the author of the popular, award-winning blog Enjoying the Small Things. She has been honored by both the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC), and has been featured throughout the media. She lives in Naples, Florida, with her family. Read bio and latest posts → Read Kelle's latest posts →

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15 thoughts on “Come What May

  1. Jennifer says:

    “I’m learning to replace the ideal dreams of who my child will be tomorrow with the beauty of who she is today.”

    Thank you. This made me cry. My daughter is struggling with some developmental delays and I’m having a harder time with it than I ever thought I would. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

  2. Maria Smilios says:

    I find this whole post difficult to believe because Kelly Hampton’s entire website depicts a life that is simply picture perfect–her kids are never dirty or tired or seen with messy hair (except if it’s styled that way). So, I find this insulting–the words don’t match the lifestyle.

  3. Jennie says:

    If you believe that, then you are not a regular reader of Kelle’s blog. The fact that in her photos I can see her daughters’ dingy knees, the piles of laundry on the sofa, the crumbs and Barbie shoes hiding in the corners is why I keep coming back and wait impatiently for the next post.
    Her photos show her perfectly imperfect life, and I love her for it. I’ve missed out on taking sooooo many photos of myself and my kiddo because I keep thinking that everything in it has to be just so. Kelle reminds me that beauty and memories are in the imperfection.

  4. Jennie says:

    If you really believe that, then you are not a regular reader of Kelle’s blog.
    And I’m sorry that you are not because you’ve missed her beautiful imperfect moments.
    Her daughters’ dingy knees from playing in the driveway all morning. The piles of flour and mixing bowls stacked on the kitchen counter after making cupcakes and letting Lainey measure. Mt. Clothes lying like a beast on her sofa while she stacks blocks with Nella. The crumbs, Barbie shoes, and dust bunnies cuddled into the corners.
    I’ve seen all these things, and I’ve cried and laughed and shared so many posts that I feel like I know her.
    And I like her. A lot. Imperfections and all. And I like myself more because of her.

  5. Blissmamaof3 says:

    Thank you for the reminder. So much of the struggle that comes with parenting occurs when reality and our children don’t meet our expectations. Our children may not even know these expectations exist and are certainly under no obligation to fufill them.

  6. Sara says:

    Your words speak right to my heart…and I’m grateful you shared them. Thank you!

  7. Sara says:

    Your words speak right to my heart…and I’m grateful you shared them. Thank you!

  8. Melissa Veenvliet says:

    I find it so hard to read comments(I really don’t know why I do it)! Why can’t we be kind to each other as Mama’s who are trying our best every day, all day! I read Kelle’s blog and have scene “real” life. Please don’t be so quick to judge.

  9. Linda says:

    I have to disagree with you, Maria. I have read Kelle’s posts for a couple years and have to say that yes, she does try to put a positive spin on everything, she does have honesty in all of her posts. In many off them she comments that she may have a clean house in 1 picture but if you could see another room it would be a mess. She has also stated on many posts that she picks the best pictures to put on her blog but she takes a lot of them to get the pics that she chooses. She is a professional photographer, I wish I was a bit more like her. Choose what matters in your day and take care of that before the stuff that isn’t quite as important.

  10. Liz says:

    I cannot believe that 3 years later she is STILL cashing in on this. Congrats, you accepted and loved your child. Welcome to motherhood.

  11. Sam says:

    I actually agree with what Maria has to say. I feel that Instagram and Facebook are in effect breeding a generation of mums working their butts off to out “perfect” each other. Dressing their children up in the best clothes, the best toys, setting up photos of ‘magical moments’, new outfits every day etc. Showing all how awesome they are at being mum. Just a note, not just to kelle, but all the other mums out there – You are doing an unbelievably good job, pop the camera down and stop blogging about it. Just enjoy it yourself. When you see a beautiful moment begin to happen and your first thought isn’t, “where’s my camera” it is there that true happiness is found. Relax, dress your kids in trackies and a T-shirt, let them get muddy and when they do try to resist the urge to photograph it and blog about it. Give yourself a break and teach yourself to enjoy the small things by yourself. You may not get 2000 likes but you will get your family back to yourself. As it should be.

  12. Allison H. says:

    And this is a perfect example of why killing a child in utero for health problems is wrong. Thanks to Kelle for honest writing and gorgeous pictures; makes my day!

  13. viki says:

    I agree. Everything this woman does is for show. Those kids must see that camera as their real mother. Hampton is fake and it is amazing all the dummies who fall for her.

  14. Donna Nolan says:

    Maria, I feel the exact same. I am a fan of her photography and her writing. But I used to actually feel bad after reading her blog because it made me feel like a poor parent!!!! Even when she tries to say how unorganized she is or how messy her home is, how spontaneous her life is etc. when you look at her blog it’s so condradicting. I do keep going back, I guess everyone likes to read about and look at perfect things. :) I’m always left to wonder where she finds the time to stage all of this perfectness – most Mothers of wee ones barely find the time to brush their teeth in reality! If anyone knows her secret PLEASE TELL!!!!!

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Maria – I completely disagree. I actually find that she finds a wonderful balance between sharing the struggles of having a disabled child, and looking beyond it to show that life can still be beautiful.

    If you would read the words that she writes – her life is not all unicorns and rainbows, with any of her children. Have you ever thought about the possibility that she is sharing the images that make her feel happy, that show the world you can find peaceful, wonderful moments even in times of uncertainty? It’s articles she writes like this, and the words on her blog that shed light on both sides of her life. Just because she doesn’t always show the “messier” times through her pictures, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

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