It was only recently that I started to change the way I looked at my children. Change the glasses of expectation I view them through. I’m not sure what caused the shift. Maybe it was something I read, maybe it was something I saw in myself when I looked in the mirror every day. Either way I knew that looking at my children and expecting them to be perfect was something I did almost every single minute of the day.
Now before I go on I want to start with a disclosure. I’m not saying my children are perfect, I am not saying that I am perfect and I am absolutely not saying that anyone who is reading this strives for perfection in themselves or their children. Gosh perfection has become an ugly taboo in our society and I am well aware of that.
This post is about the bar. The standard we expect of our children. And quite honestly in most cases those expectations are quite high. Whether it is something that happens intentionally or not, it happens. Right from birth, is he sleeping through the night yet? Is he talking? Can he walk? One milestone after another keeps pushing the bar higher. But what about when developmental milestones stop mattering so much and everyday life takes their place?
It was one morning when I had a splitting headache, knew I had a huge day ahead of me and was already exhausted that I caught myself out yelling at my boys to get ready during our crazy morning routine. Why aren’t your shoes on yet? Why are you still in your pyjamas? Where is your reader? Why didn’t you get all this ready last night? When a quiet little response stopped me in my tracks: Mum I have a headache, I’m still tired from yesterday.
Yesterday was a big day, a big day of playing with their cousins in Sydney and then an evening of exhausting travel to get back home to Melbourne. I had a headache, I was still tired, why did I expect my boys not to be?
That is the perfection I am talking about. The expectation of our children in all matter of things – to not be human, to be infallible almost. After all they are a reflection of us, a part of us, we created them – they must be perfect – or we have failed? Is that how it goes?
I think I need to start cutting my boys some slack. Not the kind of slack that gets them out of doing their homework, reading their books, playing sport or always using their manners. The kind of slack that acknowledges that my boys are not just my children, my prized possessions, they are their own little person, someone who is struggling to make it through this life just as much as I am, perhaps with less understanding than I have.
Children feel more and understand less, I need to be more aware of that. The tug of war when it comes to parenting is a tough act to manage. But I can’t keep yanking that rope and dragging my boys down. I often wonder when I snap at them, react with anger and not love, what does that do to their self-esteem? I know later that night my self-esteem hates me for it.
It is a difficult balance this parenting gig. The extremes do not work. Striving for perfection or turning a blind eye and letting them do whatever they want. None of that is a healthy way to live and certainly spells trouble for the future. But a little more compassion, a little more understanding? Seeing our children as people and not modelling clay we have complete control over? Maybe that is a better way to start.
Are you parenting perfect children?