Shifting My Focus Away From Perfect Parenting

Zebra-de-planicie Equus-burchelli fotografia-4338

I’m call myself an unschooler.  A gentle and peaceful parent.  An empathetic parent.  And most of the time, I am.  But sometimes my actions don’t quite line up with my declared parenting style.  Honestly, there are times when my actions are diametrically opposed to my declared parenting style.  I’m selfish.  I put my own needs before the needs of my children.  I yell.  I get agitated by things that don’t matter.  I fail to see things from my child’s perspective.  My fear of imaginary things that might happen causes me to harm the relationship I have with my children.  Sometimes I worry that by the time I figure out how to be a decent parent, my children will be grown.

Since achieving parental perfection seems to be out of the question, my focus is now on three main areas.

Admitting and Apologizing

What I did was wrong.  I shouldn’t have behaved so poorly.  I’m sorry.  No reason to try to cover it up, justify it, or ignore it.  We all make mistakes, and my children appreciate my willingness to be open, genuine, and vulnerable.

Learning and Improving

I am committed to constant improvement as a parent, and nothing helps more than making mistakes and learning from them.  Its hard to feel down about being a bad dad when I look at how far I have come in such a short amount of time.

Remembering and Empathizing

My imperfections remind me that we are all human.  Remembering this helps me to be more understanding when others exhibit imperfect behavior, and to respond appropriately.

So, I can’t teach my children how to be perfect, but I can set an example in repairing relationships, using failure as a stepping stone to success, and showing empathy and compassion to broken, hurting, imperfect people.  And I think that is just as good.

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Letting Go Of Tools That No Longer Work

One of the symptoms of ADHD is a tendency to hyper-focus.  To be unable to remove one’s mind from a certain subject, and to become absolutely absorbed in it, and unable to focus on anything else.  This has both benefits and drawbacks.  One of the drawbacks is that it does not last forever.  Odds are what was enthralling a few months ago, now scarcely receives a second thought.

I am always on the lookout for a new scheme, a new method, a new mantra, or a new program to help me along on my life’s journey.  It could be anything.  A website for keeping track of tasks that need to be done; a phrase to repeat in my head when I am getting frustrated, or losing my cool.

When I find something that works, it is quite exciting.  I make quick progress, and wonder how I ever survived without my new favorite tool.  Everything starts falling into place.  Amazing.  Slowly, however, what was once joy turns to drudgery, and my miracle solution ceases to be miraculous.  I can’t really tell you exactly why this happens, but it does, and it can be quite devastating.  I have grown accustomed to the results that were once produced.  Why is the house so cluttered and messy, when I have been using my fool proof cleaning method?  Why I am constantly dropping the ball at work when I have my never-forget-a-task-again checklist?

There was a time when, to my hurt, I would force myself to keep going, to keep using a tool that is no longer working.  But over time I have discovered that it is better to be happy it worked for as long as it did, and move on.  The less time I spend in mourning, the more time I can spend developing my next big idea.

Remembering To Wash Your Bowl


I recently stumbled upon this Zen story:

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?

The monk replied, “I have eaten.”

Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

For some reason, this story really resonated with me.  I, like the monk, was enlightened.  But why?  It seems so simple, after you eat, wash your bowl.  Focus on the task in front of you and carry it on to completion.  Its what Grandma would tell you if she wasn’t holed up in her room surfing the web on her smart phone, and trolling random blogs (Hi Grandma!).

But in today’s always-moving-on-to-the-next-thing society, this is not a truth you can take for granted.  And its not just dishes.  I have so many incomplete tasks floating around out there, I have not only filled my mental sink with dishes, but they have spilled out to cover the counter, and I have started stacking them on the floor.  Honestly, I hardly even cook anymore, I just go out to eat.  Spending my time on tasks that just give the illusion of completeness, like social media, checking my blog’s stats, watching movies, et cetera.

So, from this point forward, until I get tired of it, and decide to quit mid-stream, I am going to finish what I start, and I am going to start less.  I will take it one task at a time, and wash my dish slowly.  Not only that, I’ll do you one better, and dry it.  No.  I will go all out, and put it away.

So, if you are asking yourself, what should I be doing?  How do I find enlightenment?  What is my purpose in life?  Wash your bowl, son.  Wash your bowl.

(If this sounds familiar, it may be because it is a post from my blogger blog, which is no longer active.  If you followed me on blogger, you may have read it there)