No such thing as a perfect parent!
Freedom from expectations
Saturday was national sons’ day. It got me thinking. I reflected on a period when I was striving to be a perfect mum. My son Isaac was 15 and mid-GCSEs. I will now tell part of our story - I have his permission.
Isaac had been struggling with his mental health. He was doing his best to stay in school despite severe anxiety that sometimes led to suicidal ideation. His school insisted that able students studied for the English baccalaureate (a set of subjects). Isaac had one subject that was causing him extreme stress. He wanted to give it up. I spent weeks trying to persuade him to press on with it. My comments went something like this:
“but you’ve done most of the work already”
“you may regret it later if you drop it now”
“School won’t let you”
It was so tough for Isaac. He was struggling to sleep, he was feeling nausea, having headaches, and was withdrawn.
I found myself getting curious. Why was I pushing him to continue? Did I really think that was best for him? Or was I led by my desire to be a perfect parent? That was an uncomfortable question to ask myself. I realised I was trying to live up to the expectations of others. Would I let school, relatives, friends, or society guide the decisions I make as a parent?
I stepped down from being in charge (see the Partnering not Parenting approach) Isaac and I talked and I really listened. I wrote to the school to ask that Isaac be allowed to drop the subject. A few weeks later and with no reply I wrote again telling the school that he would be dropping the subject and giving them a plan to make this work. I asked for confirmation of our plan by reply, and I got it!
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The illustration below shows Isaac’s response to me when I really heard him.
The good news for Isaac is that he went on from his GCSEs, minus that subject, to 6th form college. He now has an offer from his preferred university for a place on a degree course in an area that he is passionate about. That subject never mattered!
The main problem I see in trying to be a perfect parent is: who do you let define perfect? Even if you’ve established those perfection criteria for yourself I wonder if your child agrees. What’s more, you are just setting yourself up to fail. Perfect isn’t possible for anyone!
I decided to set my parenting bar at:
Listening and doing my best
I feel a future blog about ‘listening’ coming soon. For now, it’s certain I have messed up in parenting a few times since that period but I’ve been following the advice of the wonderful Maya Angelou.
Are any of you dear readers up for joining me in being self-compassionate? Will you give yourself grace for your parenting missed steps and just agree to do better when you know better? I’d love to hear from you in the comments (you can share anonymously).
Why don’t you join me this evening at 8.30 pm as I announce the February Illustration of the month and draw a winner? Click the link here to watch me go live.
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I loved this post. I have been a parent for 36 years now and there is no perfection for sure!