I said to someone recently, “Parenting is one of those things I desperately want to be good at, but just can’t, no matter how hard I try.”
Do you ever feel that way?
But what does being a good parent mean?
What other ing words can I think of?
If there was a nice flow chart manual for parents, that would be great. This problem: look it up: this: yes: that: no: answer.
If there was a universal benchmark for kids, that would be great. But kids aren’t all the same and they develop in different ways.
Family situations are different. Roads are different. A lot of things are different.
Why don’t I think I’m good at parenting? Parenting is something I can’t achieve highly at because I experience so many failings, and just when I think I’ve got something right, something changes or there is another issue to address, and I’m back to square one! See my quandary?
Recently, I experienced a passive attack against my parenting skills. Not the first, and won’t be the last. My first reaction was sadness. I felt sad and heavy: burdened…misunderstood and misjudged even. Sigh. Then I felt defensive…and if I am to be brutally honest here (and I am) I would acknowledge there was an element of truth to the comment that was made against me.
But, but, that person doesn’t understand what I have been goint through this year, and why I have compromised in that particular area. It really wasn’t an intentional deficit but more of a consequence of many things. A slow fade, yes. But they don’t know how hard I’m trying. They don’t know some of the good things I’m doing as a parent and some of the successes I’ve had! But, but, but…
I could go on. However that doesn’t help. No. It just makes me angry and stubborn instead of gracious and open.
I remember something my mum said to me when I was a teen…she said, “If you start being defensive, there’s a high chance you are in the wrong (in some way).” She’s didn’t mean that I was doing something wrong necessarily, but something was wrong. A defence reaction usually meant there was something to either adjust or overcome.
I’ll rephrase that (for myself): A defence reaction is an opportunity to adjust a potential flaw or overcome an unedifying emotion. Because of this, I have always red-flagged a defensive reaction in my life. Always. It makes me stop to examine myself or my motives. Doing this has served me very well. It has, overtime, made me more confident and free in my thought and action.
I’ve been criticised many times about my parenting, and been able to just dismiss it easily…and that’s because there was no founding to the judgement. It works both ways. Even if a judgement (intentional or unintentional) is unjust or the criticism well indented, an intense defence reaction from me usually means there is something, something I need to address in my own life or some area to improve. That something doesn’t even have to be a bad trait or a mistake, sometimes it can mean a hurt to overcome, a wrong to forgive or a improvement to make.
However, there is a process. I felt sad about the comment that was made about something I ‘should’ be doing better. And I then I felt defensive. Then…I panicked.
I’m not a good parent. Where else am I failing? What else am I not doing as well as I should be? Where are the holes in my ship? I’ve failed to teach my kids something I should have. But…I have done well in other areas. Haven’t I? But I SHOULD have realised that deficit, but I didn’t. I’m such a bad parent. But my kids love and trust me. That’s something isn’t it? But it’s not enough.
Can you see the cycle? Sadness, defence, sadness, defence…and so on. It’s so easy for me to fall into this trap until eventually, the anxiety passes and I forgot it all…until the next time. But I don’t play that game.
When I felt defensive this time, I stopped myself right there. It’s tough dealing with criticism, and I think parents cop a lot of it. However, I knew the reason the comment hurt so much in this particular instance, is I could see the truth in it. The truth wasn’t in the ‘should’ but in my realisation of my failing. And even more than that: the realisation of how the failing came to be. I felt sad. I felt defensive. Then I stopped feeling defensive and just allowed myself to feel sad.
I felt sad because I realised the emotion wasn’t really because of the comment that was made, and it wasn’t really in my failing, but the realisation of the road that led me to that moment. It was a road I had to take, it wasn’t the best one, or most ideal, but a necessary one. When you’re hiking up a mountain, you might use the same cup or coffee and soup. You cut corners because efforts need to more intensely be focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you are working hard at keeping your head above water while it seems all others around you are perfecting their stroke. But there is a point where the road evens out and the waves turn calm…and it’s good to fine tune.
I worked out why I felt sad, then I put it in perceptive. You see, this ‘something’ I’m talking about is a blip. Really. It terms of what is important to me in raising the small people in my care into genuine, kind, bright, confident, inspiring people, it’s the orange in the pie.
Then, I took the criticism on as a prompt. But I only took the truth in it. I didn’t take it all, just the truth the defence in me was screaming at. I took hold of it with open arms, even though it hurt. It worked like this in my mind: acknowledge of what had led to this moment wasn’t because of outright mistake but the compensations made on a particular road (no shaming or blaming or hanging on to guilt). I owned the prompt. I aligned it with what I believe and what is true. I turned it into a challenge for the better.
I’m not a perfect parent. I’m not even a good parent. I say that because what I see as ‘good’ by society’s standards is a fictional image floating around in my head (maybe I put it there myself) and its one of a magazine home, happy families sitting at the dinner table and well pressed, high achieving kids. What is ‘good’ often means what looks good from the outside, and yet I don’t want to raise good children. I want to raise passionate people of conviction. I don’t want to be a good parent. I want to be a real parent who shares the highs and lows — the beauty of connection and relationship — with the people most dear to me with an open heart and an undercurrent of deep Faith. I always need to remind myself of that: when I feel my failing keenly; when I feel overwhelming pressure to be a perfect parent.
Another post I’ve written along the similar lines: How I Became a More Confident Parent.