I originally wrote this October 3, 2010. An online friend asked me if she could read it again. I’d forgotten all about this post! I’m re-posting it here, and now I’m inspired to go back through other old posts I’d made private at my old blog to see if there’s anything else worth reposting.
What do you think constitutes a “good” parent?
I wonder about this often. Am I a good enough parent?
It seems as if there are high standards to live up to–a squeaky clean house, healthy (organic?) food, well behaved and polite children, smart or advanced children who only play with quality toys and watch little to no television.
Sometimes I wonder who invented these standards, and why many parents spend so much time and energy trying to live up to them.
Sure, you shouldn’t live in filth and squalor, of course not, but…is it so important for every thing in my home to be constantly organized and clean? I don’t know, really. Is it?
I will tell you I have adult temper tantrums sometimes when I look around and see piles of pet fur, crumbs, spilled food no one has bothered to clean up, dishes and dirty clothes all over, toys spread far and wide, etc. I can’t stand it. I crave cleanliness and organization, for my own sanity if nothing else.
Then when I’m vacuuming it occurs to me that 10 or 20 years from now my girls won’t remember if there were 1 million black lab furs across the white kitchen floor or not. What they will remember is me playing with them, us doing fun things together. They will remember their mom freaking out over messes, or they’ll remember us happily enjoying our day. Really, when I think about it that way, maybe the cleanliness isn’t such a big deal. Of course we can work together to tidy up regularly, but is keeping it spotless some unattainable idea I’m wasting away precious moments grasping for? And the kicker is that even though I freak out over messes and work so hard to maintain things, my house is often still horrendously messy. (People who know me in real life and have randomly stopped by know what I’m talking about!)
Why do we think the house has to be spotless, anyway? People do live here, after all.
I worry about my house’s cleanliness, and I worry about my kids. I do want to be a good enough parent, but I have trouble deciding what that means exactly. My kids watch TV. Sometimes, on a bad day, we just hang out in our pajamas and watch TV all day. Why not? Little voice in my head keeps squealing about rotting brains and higher standards…sometimes the little voice squeals so loud that I can’t hear Sponge Bob’s laughter. The little voice also blocks out the laughter of my daughter.
And again I start wondering–10 or 20 years from now will it matter if she watches stupid cartoons or if she doesn’t? I don’t know, probably not. She will probably fondly remember snuggling in bed and giggling at cartoons with her family.
This applies to toys also. I certainly wish we had a small collection of high quality, beautiful, imagination inspiring wooden toys. But hey, guess what we have instead? A pretty kick ass Barbie collection, a bag of Happy Meal toys, and some (made in China) wooden food. And guess what else? Rosie spends hours playing imaginatively with her plastic toys. Here I sit wondering if they are good enough, while she’s off re-enacting Tyler and I as Ken and Barbie. I keep wondering when she’s all grown up 20 years from now if it will matter…and I don’t think it will. I think she’ll remember the utter joy she felt when picking out a new Barbie. At least I hope that’s what she remembers.
Behavior…it just gets tougher as Rosie gets older. Am I a good enough parent in this area?
Sometimes things blow up in my face. My four year old can be one scary little beast some days. But is that really a measure of parenting? Maybe she just has bad days, the same as adults do…except most adults are more mature in the way they handle it when everything falls apart. Then again, sometimes everything falls apart for me too on a bad day and I yell or do things I regret. I’m an imperfect parent, but does that mean I’m not a good parent?
So what if her clothes don’t match sometimes, or if she has dirt under her nails. She does bathe regularly. She didn’t just leap off of a magazine page! Hand-me-down clothes she (mis) matched up herself, dirty finger nails from digging in the dirt, and a huge grin on her chocolate smeared face…that just might be more than good enough.
I don’t understand why there is so much criticism out there. A large amount of it comes from within too. I’m constantly asking–am I a good enough parent? Am I doing everything wrong? Is it all going to be ok in the end? I tend to measure how I’m doing against those mythical perfect standards.
Maybe the voice inside my head needs to shut up and just look around. Too much self-talk, not enough action.
I mean, yeah, things go very wrong, we have bad days. Yesterday I threw a bowl and broke it into a zillion razor sharp shards. The baby was screaming on the floor, Rosie was whining, I was starving, my entire lunch and my drink both got spilled, and the dogs were attacking the spilled food like rabid animals. I threw the bowl harder than I meant to. Rosie was so scared she hid in our room!
Am I still a good enough parent? At least I’m a human parent, who sometimes makes mistakes.
Today I was making waffles for breakfast. While I was mixing the batter Ada scooted across the room and grabbed her little potty and smeared poop all over herself, from head to toe. I didn’t realize Tyler had left her potty out in the floor. Tyler didn’t realize Ada was that mobile.
Does that revoke my good parent status? At least she had a bath immediately afterward.
Sometimes I get the feeling that my life is a comedy of errors. Sometimes I sit down a have a good laugh over it.
Rosie had McDonald’s for lunch. I really might not be a good enough parent! Run for the hills, the whole world is going to come crashing down. One kid eats her own poop, the other kid eats food that has a nutritious equivalent of poop.
I worry about it a lot–if I am doing good enough. Then I lay in bed, nursing my two little loves, and I think about the big picture. The happy moments, even against the imperfection…and I do think I am good enough.
The more I think about it the more I think those stupid standards we measure ourselves against should be beaten down and destroyed.
What constitutes a good enough parent isn’t what you eat, though healthy nutrition is an important thing to give your children. A good enough parent isn’t measured by the type of toys you can provide, or how clean your house is at any given moment. A good enough parent status isn’t proven by perfectly well behaved children. Sometimes I suspect the perfectly well behaved children might be falling apart on the inside. Real children are not perfect, just as good enough parents can still make mistakes.
So today I am starting over.
I am a good enough parent. I am the best parent I can be.
The mythical perfect parenting standards are obsolete, I refuse to acknowledge them any longer. Instead I am creating a new set of ideals, the set of ideals that applies to the good enough parent.
Is my house happily lived in–Are their toys strewn about from our day of play and pet fur in the floor because I enjoyed my children instead of spending time with my vacuum cleaner, and crumbs on the counter from our afternoon of gleeful messy baking? If so, then I am a good enough house keeper. I pledge to straighten up a bit when I get a spare moment, but no rush…we’ll just mess it up again tomorrow. And you know what? It’s ok if I’d rather spend an hour before bed with my husband instead of doing the dishes. If I have dishes in the sink, I’M STILL GOOD ENOUGH.
Did we eat healthy enough today? As long as we are eating vegetables, fruits, and only a little processed food I think we’ll be alright. The healthier the food the better, but sometimes fast food can still be good enough.
Were my children perfectly behaved today? I hope not! We’re real people who make mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Not trained monkeys or robots that can perform every action perfectly. Even if my kid screamed in the grocery store and I lost my temper, I am still a good enough parent. Sh*t happens, right?
And overall, the biggest indicator that I may still be a good enough parent despite my shortcomings?
Their happiness. The joy. The moments where I think my heart might burst.
Sometimes it’s picture perfect.