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I Hope I’m Not a Perfect Mom

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I remember the first time I realized my parents would die someday. I understood the concept of death, but the thought of my parents actually dying wasn’t something that had occurred to me before. When it did, at that moment, I was devastated and pissed. Why would they bring me into this world when they could die at any moment? Obviously no one thought this plan through.

I sat on a glider on our back deck, listened to the cool breeze rustle the leaves on the surrounding trees and started to cry a little as the heaviness of mortality began to sink in. I tried to imagine what I would do if one or both of them died. Suburban life was pretty boring, so I was really into creating my own drama back then.

As I kicked my foot into each glide of the chair, I wasn’t thinking about how much better my life would be if my mom hadn’t yelled at me when I disrespectfully ignored her request to sweep the kitchen. I didn’t sniffle over how inappropriate it was that my dad swore in front of me while he watched a football game. I wasn’t tallying all of their “imperfections,” or worry that I was in the midst of being royally screwed up. I just thought about how much they loved me and how much I loved them. Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time — their doting, discipline, and undying love gave me a feeling of security, confidence, comfort, and strength. How could I live without them if they left me on this earth alone?

It was confirmed to me right then and there – watching Bambie was a very bad idea.

I’m growing more confident that the ideal parenting projected on us is supposed to look like a peaceful yoga pose with wind chimes and wooden flutes playing in the background. For every “imperfect” human emotion or behavior a parent demonstrates, a new study pops up, linking it to ruining our children forever.

According to some articles I’ve read, we can’t even put our kids in time-out anymore. I don’t know about you, but time-out is where I was able to do my best reading. A few Little Critter books later and I had a complete heart and attitude change, mostly because I forgot what caused me to act out in the first place. Scarred for life? Eh, not really.

As much as I love some drama, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy to give my life some pizazz, I just can’t for the life of me buy into the current landscape of parenting drama. How privileged do we have to be when we call up arms to protect our children from yelling, moments of anger and time-outs when there are women trying to protect their babies from starvation or being kidnapped by terrorists?

There is no utopia. There are only people. Don’t get me wrong, human beings are incredible. We’re always striving to be better, seeking progress, looking to evolve. We want to learn, grow, create. We can adjust our behavior that hurts others. We can feel remorse and apologize. We end anger with a hug. It’s all good things. But we can’t protect our children from their imperfect humanness. We can’t protect them from our imperfect humanness, either.

Besides, why would we want to? I like being imperfect. Imperfection means I’m real.

I don’t want my child to see me striving for perfection. I want her to see me miss the mark time and again, or even epically screw-up (of course not, always at her expense). She may see some road rage. Maybe overhear me talk to her daddy not so sweetly. Who knows, the list of possibilities where I could fall short are endless.

What I do know is that there shouldn’t be shame in being human. The true miracle of life is found in the redemption. It’s the getting back up and dusting yourself off. It’s the heartfelt apology that leads to evolving into someone better, someone trying, someone who will never give up good.

This isn’t an excuse to indulge my ego to sling anger, manipulate, or condescend. It’s simply an acceptance that falling short will happen. And I truly believe that my daughter will feel more safe and secure observing the redemption in my correction than sensing the inevitable unease that smogs up the atmosphere when someone is pretending.

Yes, there are times I remember in my childhood where a parent did something that hurt my feelings. Those moments are rare, but they stick out because childhood is the first time we learn to navigate hurt feelings.

Yes, there are also some of us that have traumatic childhoods at the hands of parents or caregivers who struggled to deal with their own suffering, leaving some of us desperate not to repeat their mistakes.

But even the recognition of our behavior’s roots is still redemption. It’s still its own miracle, in its own way. And if we can garner the courage to seek help through counseling or other resources when our behavior towards our children goes too far into neglect or abuse, then what a beautiful opportunity to demonstrate the human capacity to never give up good.

In the meantime, I refuse to get whipped up into the hype. Will our kids define their childhood by that time we were fiery pissed because they defiantly refused to pick up their Legos? Or will they remember our sweet, quiet hugs? Our perfume. Our gentle touch and soothing hum that made them feel so deeply loved, so secure and safe?

Ok, maybe they’ll remember both. Whatever, they’ll be fine.

And honestly, if I can forgive my parents for letting me watch Bambie’s mother die, then there’s hope for the rest of us imperfect parents. The beauty of life is tucked away in our love that fuels the apology, the correction, the forgiveness, the redemption. It’s the sweet spot. The good stuff.

If we can focus on that, my guess is we’ll all be just fine.

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