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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He did WHAT in his cup?

cupIf you have seen the animated film Cars you may remember the scene where Lightning McQueen is telling the residents of Radiator Springs of Doc’s history as a race car.  He explains to them that Doc has won 3 Piston Cups, to which Tow Mater replies “He did what in his cup?”

Well I am proud to say that last night I was presented with my first Piston Cup.  My youngest son, who is 20 months, is learning to use the toilet.  He does not like diapers, and if we are home, he is usually naked from the waist down.  When he first abandoned his diapers a few months ago, he was pretty neutral as far as the toilet was concerned.  If you sat him on it, he would go, but mostly he would just go on the floor, and watch as Mom or Dad hurried to clean up.  Slowly though, he began to realize that it was more desirable to use the toilet, and he has been having fewer and fewer accidents.

Last night, he was upstairs in bed, watching a movie on the kindle with his brother and sisters.  He felt that call of nature, so he paused the movie and made for the stairs.  There just so happened to be an empty cup sitting on the first landing.  Seeing that he still had a measurable distance to the bathroom, and not wanting to create an unsightly slip hazard on the floor, he stood over the cup and relieved himself.  (This is one of the reasons why, if you have children,  you should never drink out of cups you find lying around the house, no matter how wasteful you feel just dumping things out.)

If your wondering how I reacted, the truth is, I didn’t.  He made a valiant effort, and showed spectacular resourcefulness, so there was no reason to reprimand, scold, or otherwise tell him he was wrong.  But I also am not keen on this becoming a recurring event, so I wasn’t about to praise him for it.  I don’t really think I could have said anything anyway, even if I wanted to, without breaking out into uncontrollable laughter.

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