The 7-Year Parenting Itch

If you are in a long-term relationship, you are likely familiar with the concept of the 7-year-itch. The origination of the term is unclear, but the meaning is not.

This is the time when we start to reevaluate our partners, our lives and ourselves.  The shine wears off and reality sets in.  We see that the person we’ve chosen to spend the rest of our lives with is actually a flawed human being who sometimes gets on our nerves.

We get bored.  We get restless.  We buy sports cars and have affairs.  In the end, some of get us divorced and some of us stick it out.

But for some parents, the marital 7-year itch is only the beginning of the disillusionment.  For them, there’s a 7-year parenting itch as well. 

Writing at Motherlode, Alison Patton relates her experience:

“When my first child reached 7, I had already accepted that I was not a perfect wife, and my husband and I had faced and survived the marriage crisis. I was taken by surprise, however, when I realized I was not a perfect mother, and my son and daughter were far from perfect as well.”

For Patton, realizing her kids weren’t perfect was only part of the pain.  Acknowledging that many of their imperfections, bad habits and character flaws were traits they’d picked up from their parents also stung.  She saw her son’s messy ways and quick temper and her daughter’s moodiness and pack-rat tendencies as proof that she was not the perfect parent she imagined she was.

And just like a woman in an unhappy marriage, the realization that things weren’t how she thought they’d be made her want to flee.  If she’s screwing up her kids so badly, why should she keep trying?

Of course, she continues to stick it out with her imperfect children because that’s what parents do.  And while her reaction to the realization that she and her kids weren’t perfect may sound a little extreme, I get it.  Most parents, at one time or another, have an ‘aha’ moment when they realize that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Mine came when I overhead my kid bossing around her best friend in a tone that sounded uncomfortably familiar.

The difference is that I was not at all surprised to see that she’d absorbed some of my know-it-allness.  I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I never for a moment entertained the idea that I was going to score 100% at this parenting gig.

Of course, I have the advantage of already having raised one child to adulthood.  From that experience, I learned that perfection is impossible and striving for it only leads to disappointment.  For the parent and the child.  So, just face it.  You are are going to mess something up somewhere at some point.  And if the worst you do is raise a child who is moody, messy and bossy, then you did okay.

Image: zazzle/Flickr

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