℅ Skip and Whistle sweatshirt; ℅ Chicnova harem pants, old (similar.) I also just bought these similar palazzo pants at Target last week and I loveee them.)
I’ve been reading a lot lately, about other moms and how we have this pressure to be perfect, and have perfect families and perfect children and perfect lives. We want to appear as if we seamlessly bring our kids up without making mistakes, ever.
In case you were wondering, this vision of perfection isn’t helping me. This notion that I have to be all knowing and always with it in my kids’ eyes, that I can’t make mistakes, or say the wrong things without damaging their souls. I’m an introspective person, looking inside myself and examining my day for faults and reasons I could have done better. Always at night I do this. I want so badly to be the best mother ever that I pick apart my day, moment by moment, and gut myself over it. I worry that I’ve damaged them, that all the good I do is voided by the moments of frustration and anger that spills out a little too often.
I read a quote once that said, “we all try to be the kind of mom we wish we had.” At first this sounds bad, because we can all look back and pick through what we didn’t like about growing up and find fault in our parents. Often it takes being a parent to figure our that we are all sort of bumbling around and making super quick decisions and saying stuff that will most likely land our kids in therapy someday. Our parents were in this space once, too, taking it day by day and trying their best. We all get dealt good and bad hands, childhood wise, and it’s easy to blame our families. It’s never cut and dry like television makes it out to be, we don’t always get closure and laughs and the togetherness sitcom families get. We get messy lives, moments of anger and frustration, regrets and ill wishes.
Often my inner thoughts are about the past and what I’ve promised myself I’m not going to do with my children. All the details and silly things that you blame your parents for (and it IS silly, but whatever), I overcompensate for with my own kids. Yet it still doesn’t work. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, is in fact, true. Parenthood is hard, harder than anything I’ve ever done before, because it involves being handed these defenseless, brand new people and not screwing them up somehow. You have to teach them everything in life, plus try to give them all the knowledge it’s taken you thirty some odd years to learn. I want them to skip over the hard learning part, skip over the painful lessons and stupidity of my youth and just magically evolve as these super confident, smart little people.
I’ve also been getting a crash course lately called, “raising a school age child.” This age is different than raising babies and toddlers, because all of a sudden they can see your failures and mistakes and they remember it. They come up with the “you never…,”stuff, and “you’re so mean, mommy,”, and the always awful, “do you even love me, mommy?” This is brutal. All of a sudden they are old enough to KNOW that you aren’t perfect, because for a long time they do think you are the smartest, most wonderful person on earth.
This is pretty great, obviously.
You sort of let it go to your head a bit and believe your own hype. Hey, I AM a great mommy! Look at me, I’m making my own baby food and coming up with super fun toddler crafts! Your children love you despite the awfulness of accidentally putting them in time out a little too hard, or squeezing their arms too tight in the grocery store line during a tantrum, or throwing their book across the room in a rage because they are fighting over who gets to turn the page and you can’t take it anymore. All I can say is, thank goodness for the two second memory thing they have going on in the early days.
Except one day it ends. They see your cranky, anger filled, mistake riddled self, and they use it against you. This is the moment all of us learn eventually, and continue for years until we become parents ourselves: our kids figure out that we are real people and we aren’t perfect. They listen very carefully to everything you say and they take it to heart. I don’t know about you, but I say about a zillion things everyday to my kids that I wish I hadn’t. I find myself telling them often, “mommy isn’t perfect, she has bad days and bad moments and says mean things that aren’t true.”
You know that book, the one about Alexander and his horrible day? We read it the other night and it made me think. We work so hard on getting our kids to be happy and scolding them for less than stellar moods and behavior, yet isn’t it reality to have bad days sometimes? To be cranky and tired and whiny and so on? If I can have bad days and apologize to my kids for it (and I do, often, the poor traumatized things), why can’t they? I want my kids to know that I don’t expect perfection in them, I just want them to try. They need to be kind and helpful and good people, but they can also have crappy days and go to bed and just hope the next day is better. If I can expect this from them, I can expect this from myself, right?
Maybe life isn’t about teaching kids to be the best behaving kids all the time, but about teaching them to forgive themselves and those around them more easily. I want them to have the knowledge that we are all human and we make mistakes a lot and that it’s okay.
Maybe I need to know that, too.