Friday, February 7, 2014

A Poor Reflection

"Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands." ~ Anne Frank

Before I even start this one, I want to state this in black and white, loudly and clearly:


Having said that, I want to open up the can of "reflection of good parenting" and really look at it.

Through many trials and tribulations, I know my mother has struggled with this for years. She was blessed (OH SO BLESSED) with me as her first born child. Driven, responsible and a natural student, she never really had to worry about me. By the time she came home from work, my homework was done and I had A's almost all of the time. I didn't hang out with the wrong crowd or make questionable moral decisions. No worries. Easy peasy... As an adult I've worked hard and made good choices too. 

My brother on the other hand wasn't quite so academically inclined. He was a natural athlete and only did what he had to do to get by in school. He hasn't made such great choices as an adult and thereby has created a lot of difficulty for our family. But mostly for my mother. the objective world we WISH we lived in, there is no blame. Mother parented 2 children who made their own choices and took different paths. Yet she has beat herself up for years over the things my brother has done. And probably patted herself on the back the same amount of time for the things I've done.

Before I had kids, I never really understood that. I KNOW I've lectured her a million times on not taking the blame for another adult's choices - even if she gave birth to that adult. Not to compare herself to her friends and their kids - good or bad. In no way do our failures reflect upon her as having done something wrong or right. Especially if those failures were based on ability!

Then I had kids and they became old enough to start making choices of their own and to fail or succeed based on their skill sets.

My, oh my, how those little beings have changed my perspective for the worse.

As my girls move through the academic halls of life, I find myself questioning my parenting style on every level. I find myself feeling jealous and frustrated when my friends have children who seem to be doing better. (Shame on those facebook braggarts! Ha!) I mourn with them when they make a bad grade or don't push themselves hard enough to achieve their goal. But mostly I mourn the blows to my own pride. I hate that feeling that I've failed my children somehow. That I haven't done it "right" or as well as others have done it. That what happens in their lives means I'm not succeeding as a parent.

THAT is so wrong. It's not about me. Nor is about comparing them to other children who may or may not struggle. If I'm honest with myself, I would even say that I'd rather them struggle than have everything come easy and then get to college and flip out because they actually have to "work" at it! (Honestly, that's what happened to me. It all came easy till I had to actually STUDY to learn something. Ay yi yi!) 

Randi told me the other day that she was beginning to pray for her children to "live with purpose". Isn't that great? Not praying for them to be the top dog to make her look like a perfect parent. Not praying for them to be the best athlete in every sport, most creative in every activity or top of the class class so that they get into Harvard. Not praying for them to always make perfect choices and to always be easy to live with. 

Live with purpose. Wouldn't we all be so much better off if our kids did that? And wouldn't we be even better off than that if we didn't spend all of our time trying to prove that we are perfect parents because we have such perfect children? If we quit qualifying our own parenting skills by the achievements (or lack thereof) our children gain on their own?

It's ridiculous that there are all these unspoken parent rules that seem to exist among parents. As if it isn't hard enough to just raise decent, sweet, amazing kids...there is judgement and expectation among parents! Why do we have to get all judgy with each other? Parenting is HARD!

Think about it:  Society says that if I try to light a fire in one of their bellies, I'm not supportive enough. If I cheer them on even in defeat, I'm being too soft and not teaching them about winning and losing. If I impose rules, I'm being too strict. If I'm allowing natural consequences instead, I don't care enough about their future.

This sounds like a whine, doesn't it? Like I feel defeated? Yep. I know. Because NO ONE talks about this stuff. I even googled "a reflection of good parenting" and found about 4,236,851 links to self esteem information for KIDS. 

Ummmm.....where's the advice for the moms and dads that says, "Stop beating yourself up."  Or "There's a great future for every child - and the majority weren't their class valedictorian or even super duper amazing award winners. Lighten up!"

How about "If every parent was honest, he or she would tell you that their kids struggle too." 

And the most important one, "When your kid doesn't **insert perceived success here**,  it's not because you are a poor parent."

Let me sum this all up for those of us who prefer bullet points:

  • My kids will make mistakes and/or do things differently than I would do them.
  • Nothing my kids do as they get older will be a reflection on my parenting.
  • The achievements of my friends' or acquaintances' kids should not be measured against my own kids.
  • Regardless of this blog entry, I know that my kids are beautifully and wonderfully made.
  • I am going to pray for my kids to live with purpose
  • I am thankful for the beautiful, unique children I have been entrusted to raise. And I am proud of the kind, thoughtful, smart, funny, imperfect, sometimes lazy, cranky beings in my house. 
Let's celebrate surviving parenting today. GOOD JOB, MOM!  GOOD JOB, DAD! Way to go! Be proud of yourself because you are doing the hardest job you will ever do. 

Now...who needs a drink? 


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