Thursday, February 3, 2011

Perfect Parenting

I am currently participating in a parenting class at my church.  We are studying the book based on the poem "Children Learn What They Live" by Dorothy Nolte.  The poem has been around for years and, when I taught preschoolers, I always had a copy of it in my classroom.  Back then, I read it through teacher's eyes, looking at how I influenced my students and how the parents (and other adults) in their lives effected them.  This class has given me the opportunity to revisit the poem and read it with the eyes of a parent, examining myself as a mother and how I influence my three daughters.

Over the past couple weeks, we have discussed the negative influences presented in the poem - criticism, hostility, fear, pity, ridicule, jealousy, and shame.  Several parents in the class (who are also my friends) have said they feel very guilty as we examine our mistakes and the shortcomings in our parental skills.  I admit that I have felt a few pangs of guilt as well.

Last week, the instructor gave us a "homework assignment" which was to talk to our children and ask their opinion of our parenting styles; ask them what they like about our parenting and what they would change.  I did this with my oldest two, 8 and 6 years old.  I braced myself for the response and reminded myself not to get defensive.  I was very surprised when they had no criticisms; no complaints.  They said that I was the best mom in the world.  That I was "perfect."

Trust me, I am not writing this to be boastful.  I am fully aware that I am in NO WAY perfect.  I get frustrated.  I yell.  I get distracted.  I get caught up in schedules and forget to just take time to laugh and enjoy my kids.  But, fortunately for me, those are not the things my children notice the most.  It made me realize that we have to consider the cumulative effect of our parenting.  No parents are perfect.  We all have our faults.  We have good days and bad days.  We are human.  Through it all, though, we love our kids more than anything in this world.  We love them enough to feel guilty about those moments when we are less than perfect.  We love them enough to go to parenting classes and try to be better.  We love them unconditionally, and, despite our flaws, they know it.  As long as I can continue to say that with confidence, I will rest easy at night and know that I am on the right path.

Side note:  Megan, the 6 year old, did finally suggest that, if I really wanted to be a better mommy, I could make chocolate fondue more often.  So, when all else fails and you are feeling like the worst parent ever - GIVE THEM CHOCOLATE!!! :)    

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