This is a blog all just for me. It has no purpose whatsoever except for me to share some of the random nonsense I happen to be thinking about in my day-to-day life. Sometimes it sure is nice not to have a purpose.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Permission To Not Be A Perfect Parent

Being perfect in general is not possible and so being perfect as a parent is also not a realistic goal. Nonetheless, most parents are constantly striving for perfection or at least for making the least amount of mistakes possible. I think we all look into some crystal ball and realize that a couple of decades down the line, our child could easily end up sitting in a therapist's chair blaming us for causing all of their problems in life. After all, how many of us have been guilty ourselves of pointing fingers at our own parents and how their imperfections scarred us in some way.

Our parents weren't perfect and we certainly are not ourselves. But still, we turn on the television and we catch episodes of Super Nanny, which demonstrate that if only we were "super" enough parents, then perhaps our children wouldn't be throwing the tantrums that they're so good at throwing or maybe they would be better at sharing, following the rules, and picking up their toys. We do a little Internet research on ways to get our children to sleep in their own bed, and we find hundreds of thousands of pages telling us that we are simply not being consistent enough or firm enough. We never seem to be enough.

Enter The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers by Vicky Iovine. I had read The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy when I was pregnant, but I didn't realize that there was also a Girlfriends' Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood or one for toddlers. I think that I was so busy just trying to survive during my first year that I didn't spend too much time doing reading of any sort. Now that my son is two, I'm returning to my reading and research craze, most of all because I'm busy searching for some direction or advice to help me feel more secure in navigating the tumultuous toddler years.

The first book I read during my recent reading kick was recommended by a co-worker of mine: The Strong-Willed Child by James Dobson. There is obviously an audience out there that finds this book helpful since it not only came highly recommended to me, but also has been a staple in child-rearing literature over the years. I could not, however, stomach reading this book. It is like when you meet a person and realize that you simply have such differences in personal values that you know you will never be able to have a conversation that goes beyond discussing the weather.

In contrast, when I picked up The Girlfriends' Guide, I felt like at last I had met someone who spoke the same language as me. Granted, the humor may be a little over the top for some people, but I am just soaking it all up! Although I'm still just getting into the book, I wanted to share two passages that really struck a chord with me. Here's the first one:

Toddlerhood is hell, while you're going through it. But once you've survived the journey, you realize that maybe you didn't need to get so worked up about the pottying on the houseplants; that maybe a four-year-old could still sleep in a crib and not suffer structural or emotional damage; and even though you would swear on a Bible that your little one ate not one organic particle for two years, look at him now, so tall and strong. Every day I thank Mother Nature for being so much smarter than the rest of us mothers. She actually devised a system in which we parents could make one mistake after another and our kids would not only survive us but turn out pretty much how they would have if we'd done our jobs perfectly.

Yes! This was exactly what I needed to hear at this moment in my parenting life. I needed to be given the permission to not worry about being perfect. Now, before someone out there starts saying that this gives people the permission to be lazy, let me assure them that this is not the case at all. Not having to be perfect does not mean that you stop trying to be the best parent that you can be. It just means that trying to be the best parent that you can be is often enough. The second passage that I'll quote is just more along these lines:

Toddlers will learn to accomplish nearly all of the milestones that signify a successful passage through this stage all by themselves...You can demonstrate the function of a spoon for weeks or you can keep all spoons hidden in the drawer, and when his personal DNA says he's ready for a spoon, he'll quickly figure out how to use a spoon. Really try to hear me when I tell you that you need not teach your child to walk, to climb stairs or to drink out of a cup. There is a force of nature that compels a healthy and stimulated toddler to figure this stuff out on his own.

I loved this specific passage, because I still remember how one mother I know was scolded by her pediatrician for allowing her one year old daughter to still use a sippy cup. The doctor insisted that she should only drink out of uncovered cups from a year on. I always wondered if this doctor had any real grip on reality. Yes, a one year can drink from a real cup, but they also inevitably shake any cup around like a maniac. Experts may criticize parents for causing speech delays in their child or future orthodontial issues, but they also aren't the ones living with juice splashed all over the floor and walls. Then again, I guess none of us are supposed to allow our children to have any juice these days either.

In some ways, we are lucky to have access to so much advice in this day and age, but it's also this excess of advice that makes me often feel so inadequate. I think that the way The Girlfriends' Guide departs from other parenting books that I've been reading lately is to release parents from the burden of expectations regarding keeping your child "on track." We don't need to adhere to some model developmental schedule for our children, we just need to make sure that our children are "healthy and stimulated." These are two goals that I feel are very practical and ones that I believe my husband and I are achieving so far. We are always open to and striving to improve our parenting skills, but it is empowering to realize that perhaps we are not so far off track when it comes to what matters most.


  1. You guys are doing great! Parenting is not learned, its lived. I have four kids, and I still don't know if I'm doing anything right. We all know what works for others does not necessarily mean will work for you or me. If my child wants a sippy cup, I give him a sippy cup. If my child wants to drink out of a cereal bowl . . . go ahead . . . knock yourself out! Are my children less happy because of this . . . No. Are they healthy and loved . . . Yes. Are we bad parents . . . No. There are so many books out there about parenting. You will find yourself reading a book that completely contradicts the book you read before that. The truth is there are no books out there that will come close to teaching you how to be a good or "perfect" parent. They are basically just telling you their opinions. As they say,"Take it as it comes." That's what being a parent is all about. I don't see you guys as "not so far off track" I see you guys as on your own track. Like I said . . . you guys are doing great!

  2. Good advice from someone we think is doing a great job as a parent! Seeing you recently reminded us of just how awesome your kids are!