We spend a quarter of our lives in childhood and three quarters getting over it. There is no milestone to which I can pin the underlying sense of not being good enough. Our father ran my brother and I like we were part of a platoon; just the two of for goodness sake, I mean seriously. Not only was he difficult to please he was a master goal post mover.
Not being good enough was etched into my psyche from the earliest age and all for the sake of his wanting the best for us. That also meant not complaining or criticising, especially about his ways or treatment of us.
No surprises then when we left home our takeaway promise was not to treat our children in a similar way. Ha, haven’t we all been there. I was so determined to be a parent and no semblance of our upbringing was going to eek its way into my parenting style, no siree.
And then our children were born.
And they weren’t like the books.
They didn’t sleep for four hours between feeds. Neither did the burp on demand.
I must be doing something wrong. I read every book and was au fait with the latest child-raising strategies and philosophical interpretation of what the 80s child needed. It was simple. Follow the rules, use the strategies and my children too would emulate the picture perfect cherubs staring back at me from the pages.
But my children didn’t understand the effort I was putting in to give them the perfect childhood. Instead they argued, scraped vegetables off their plates, upended bowls of custard onto their freshly washed hair and then picked their noses in company.
How much more could I do?
My children weren’t like the children in the text books. They weren’t like the La Leche League children who sat next to their mothers, ate all their play lunch and said please and thank you. These cherubs’ mothers had long noses down which they peered at me and my unruly pigeon pair.
At 11am each weekday morning I listened to James Dobson on Focus on the Family. That day he was talking about parenting styles. I made coffee, pulled up a chair and then I heard it. The God drop!
“You don’t have to be the perfect parent.”
“You only have to be good enough.”
I can’t describe what happened int hat moment but it dawned on me that despite my striving to do things differently, I had made myself into a variation of my father. No, I wasn’t a sergeant major in the home (well, not often I hope), and I certainly never undermined their best efforts or wondered where the last 5% was.
The standard I set for myself as a parent involved my children being the “normal kids” in all those text books. Whether my children noticed or not the striving fell away, I lightened up, and stopped reading the books. I discovered that by accepting ‘good enough’ was in fact good enough I forgave myself the mistakes I’d made, the times I couldn’t make school assembly, didn’t run up to school with lunches left behind or arrived at school in my track pants and sneakers.
It was very liberating.
The best discovery of all was that my children were the best children. They were more normal than normal. They made messes, laughed too loudly, dragged the pooh-bum stage well beyond its time, complained, criticised, manipulated and answered back. Yep, and they have grown up to be wonderful people. They are fun-loving, still laugh loudly, committed to their spouses and families and best of all they are dream chasers.
We are not perfect. We are good enough.
Written in response to WordPress Discover weekly challenge: The Best Advice You’ve Eever Been Given