A new father proudly showed me his baby the other day. He was so full of glee as he began to tell me the many plans he had for his son. My mind fell back to a day, almost 18 years ago, when my first child was born and I quickly remembered my own plan, for I sensed, it was also his. My plan was simple: I would be the perfect mother and raise the perfect child. I didn't put it into those words at the time, but in retrospect, that was it.
I had my daughter later in life, so I had the advantage of seeing my friends make lots of mistakes, as all parents do, and with the wisdom I gained from them I was certain that I was well-equipped to get the parenting thing just right. My daughter would have everything she needed to grow into a well-mannered, intelligent, virtuous, well-educated person. I was convinced nothing short of this would result from my parenting skills but, much to my dismay, reality soon hit.
I don't remember exactly what my first blunder was or when life's first wrench showed up, or even how soon it took place after she was born, but I do remember clearly that feeling when we have to face the truth and we realize that what we dreamed of just isn't going to happen. There would be no perfect childhood and therefore, no perfect child. Why? Because there was no perfect life and certainly no perfect me!
Being a parent is arguably the most humbling experience in life. It's not just being the imperfect parent that humbles us, but also facing the reality of who we are: our strengths and our weaknesses, our praiseworthy qualities and the one's we hope no one ever notices, sometimes manifest in our very own children. The older they grow the more they begin to resemble us for better and for worse. There were some moments when my children were growing up (and there are still moments and will probably always be moments!) when they would do something that would make me just want to bury my head in the sand, because what they did was exactly what I would have done, and it was not at all flattering to oneself.
No! we will not be the perfect parent and there will not be a perfect child for you or for me, but if we get things fairly right--at least on the side of good--than there will be a wonderful child, with their own strengths and weaknesses, but doled out in different proportions though somewhat similar to our own. We will continue to love them unconditionally in spite of their imperfections as our parents loved us, and we will eventually forgive ourselves for not having got it just right. There is an ease that comes with this acceptance that somehow makes it all right, and such is the nature of parenting.
As much as social media posts might look like it, as much as the bumper stickers might proclaim it, and as much as the parents might project it there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect childhood. There are some parents whose lives are fairly easy and those whose lives are more difficult, and there are childhoods that are fairly easy and those that are more difficult, but no child--no matter how idyllic their childhood seems--ever escapes life's difficulties when growing up. Through the struggles, our children sculpt who they will become as human beings, just as we did and still do, and it's our job, as their parents to guide our children to become not perfect, but their very best, whatever that may be.