Monday, April 22, 2013

Parenting Idea - Forget Perfectionism if you're a Parent

 My extended family has a group email where we share and exchange ideas and thoughts. My daughter recently emailed the following question.  With her permission I'm posting it on my blog with some of the answers she received.  Hopefully this might help you, too.

Hi Family,
I would like to call in for some back-up from all the wise and wonderful parents out there.

Did you/Do you ever feel like no matter how many good and important things you were doing as a parent, there were a couple random things that if you didn't do- you were a failure parent all together?

For example, I know I'm a good mom: my kids brush teeth every night, I make their lunches, I say I love you, we go for walks.  Not to mention the obviously most important things like weekly FHE, daily family prayers, and scripture study.  But for some reason, I also feel like it's all not good enough unless I am 1. teaching my kids piano and 2. reading to them at night; two things that are good, but definitely not going to make or break their salvation.  And two things that I can not for some reason get consistently into our lives!

So I'm just wondering... Are there/were there things like this for you as you raised your kids?  Or am I alone in this ridiculous yet frustrating status. 
Hopeful for some help and humor, 

Here's my mother's reply:
 Faith, Why are there only two things on your list of things that you are not doing consistently?  You should also be worrying because you aren't teaching your kids Spanish and Chinese, in a world where those languages would certainly be good to learn.  You should also be
worrying because they don't know how to do the grocery shopping yet. Ok.  There is the humor you were looking for.  

 Being frustrated because you are not perfect never ends.  I think because the devil knows he can't get us to take drugs, or have an affair with the mail carrier, he CAN, however, use the perfectionist streak we have to keep us from enjoying the things we can do, and do do.  I think that perfectionism is a test (just like any other test) and realizing it is essential to our sanity.  And it never ends, just like an alcoholic's craving for liquor never ends.  A test is a test because it's HARD, and perfectionism is hard.  Your email came at a good time for me and reminded me that no, I'm not perfect and won't be perfect (I'm really just old) and most of the things I worry about just keep me from enjoying what I can, and am, doing.  I'll bet every mother on Skunkville can identify with your frustrations.  YOU ARE A GOOD MOTHER AND, BY ASKING YOUR QUESTION, HAS HELPED ALL THE REST OF US ON SKUNKVILLE, RECOGNIZE AND LAUGH AT SOME OF THE THINGS FRUSTRATING US. I FEEL MUCH BETTER JUST FROM READING YOUR LETTER AND TYPING THIS REPLY.  I hope it makes you feel better too. 

 My son's reply to my mother's reply (we call her Mormor, that's Swedish for mother's mother)
You answered a question I have had for a long time.  I can only see the trials, temptations, and sins that I am faced with at a given age.  I have a hard time thinking of any sins that I will face when I get older.  I have often thought, "What type of sin is there that prevents older people from being perfect?"  Having seen your laundry list, I have something to look forward to when I get old.

 My sister-in-law's reply
 Hi Faith,
     Yes, all us Moms and Dads can relate to how you are feeling.  As you know, Uncle Mark & I have raised 5 kids so far, and have 4 to still finish raising.  There are times I wish I could go back in time and do a few things better or different, but I wouldn't trade the wisdom that comes from learning.  If there is one thing(out of the many) we have learned, it is not to stress too much about things, but do the best we can. There are so many things(work, church, school, etc.) that demand our time. We decided long ago that we would concentrate on a few things most important on our list, and if we could fit a few extra things in we would.  We have had to really compact down what we do in life. Otherwise, everyone(us and the kids) feel overwhelmed. Time is such a gift, but we have had to really decide what is worth our time.  We also have learned to take time to enjoy the journey.

Matthew [their down syndrome son] has taught us to enjoy the little things.  He gets so excited over things that most of us would over look.  He has helped us see what truly is most important.  Since I am homeschooling him, I sometimes feel like I am not a good teacher. I had wanted everything traditional as far as teaching him goes. Like writing, reading, math, etc.. Mark keeps reminding me that I am teaching him, but in the way that works for him.  So we do computer games, ipad, coloring, singing, t.v., dress up time(costumes), and things like this.  He is learning, and I am trying to not be hard on myself.  So I hope something I said in this helps.  I need to remind myself everyday even at the age of 50 years old that I am doing the best I can, and it will all work out good in the end.  Here is a poem I saved from many years ago.  It reminded me that what we do as Mom's is important even though we don't feel it is enough sometimes.

If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again
If I had my child to raise all over again, I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I'd see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I'd model less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.
Author Unknown
 My brother's reply:
 Great poem, Tammy.  It is very true.

Here is some advice from me:
  • perfection isn't required nor attainable in the role of being a Mom (or most other things for that matter).
  • not everyone needs to play the piano (we had friends once who had 6 kids and each one was always enrolled in something--piano, dance, football, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, band and on and on, year after year).  It made me wonder if we were slacking off when I would look out the window and see our kids just swinging or jumping on the trampoline.  Their kids didn't turn out any better or worse than ours. 
  • Choose a style that works for you and yours and stay the course for the long run. 
  • We often rotated who got to be in a sport or activity.  They could support their siblings by attending the game as supporters instead of the star.
  • Unstructured time is great sometimes.
  • I loved reading to the kids at night but that was my thing, not the only thing or even the right thing.  I didn't play catch with them or teach them to fix the car.  Maybe I should have, but I didn't and none of them are in Alcatraz.  (Of course, that isn't a very high standard for determining successful parenting).
  • Find what you and your kids love doing and just keep doing that.  It will become a good memory to them and you are more likely to keep it up.
  • Elder Oaks wrote an Ensign article once called "Two Cheers for Excellence".  If you can find it, it might apply to your question.  As I recall, the point was that 'excellence' wasn't always the goal --hence, only two cheers (not three) for excellence.
  • I know some people with some terrible parents.  Make a list of all the things you don't, haven't and won't do to your kids and you will begin to see that you are getting the important things right.  These are real things people have told me about their parents (Moms and Dads).  Believe me, you aren't the one who should be worrying about your parenting skills:
  1. Fed the kids breakfast then sent them outside and locked the door.  They were not to come home until dinner time.
  2. Put a big bowl of cereal on the floor and told him--a toddler--to feed himself for the day.  Mom went back to bed, locked the door and drank.
  3. Mom only spoke to say "Shut up!" "Stop that" "Go away" "You're stupid".
  4. Dad threw them against the wall.
  5. Mom/Dad/Grandparents sexually abused them.
  6. Father shot himself in the head in the house.
  7. Guardian (an angry grandmother who hated men) dressed him as a girl and locked him out of the house.
  8. Screamed.  Screamed.  Screamed.
  9. Drank.
  10. Left and never returned.
God is the only perfect parent.  It is a tough job but very very rewarding.  Enjoy the chaos and imperfection and move forward with...Faith.


 My daughter-in-law's reply:
I understand what you are going through.  I feel guilty if my house is not perfectly clean.  Which, Elise assures me, is totally unnatural and freaky since none of her friends' houses are perfectly clean.  I used to guilt myself about my kids not being in multiple activities, I guilt myself that I haven't worked on reading as much as I should with Maya, and that my kids don't get music lessons, that my bathroom walls and refrigerator aren't covered in scripture quotes, with everyone with an assigned scripture to learn that week.  etc. etc.  There are a thousand things that I have felt guilty, inadequate, and a horrible mother for over the last 13 years.  However, I have also learned that my kids are perfectly fine, and capable of surviving without those things.  The basics are the most important to provide your children.  Love, food, fhe, prayer, and scripture study.  Everything else is fluff.  My children may not be able to play the piano, quote scriptures, turn somersaults, read greek, or speak a second language..... but they know that they are loved.  They will be just fine or make some therapist a very rich person.  

I have also learned that having a 13 year old is not easy.  These middle school years have been a real struggle for us as parents.  She started out the beginning of each year as a great student and then by the second quarter she was getting d's and f's in all but two of her classes.  We tried everything, taking away books, computer, internet, tv, no friends, bribery, rewards..... It was driving us nuts and making our relationship with her one big battle.  I talked to a lady who is a middle school counciler [at another school].  She said that we (mostly me) just needed to stop letting her have this power over us.  So the plan was for me to never look at her grades or say anything about homework. In essence I had to accept that Elise's grades and actions were her responsibility and had no reflection on me as a parent.  When teachers e-mailed me about her grades and requested a meeting. I explained to them that Elise's grades were her choice and she would have to accept the consequences of her poor choices.  I told them, and the school, that if she had to repeat 8th grade, or go to summer school I was completely fine with that.  Every time Elise complained about a teacher or class in school I cheerfully assured her that I'm sure she would enjoy them even more the second time around. So for months now I have bit my tongue,  not mentioned homework,  have cheerfully assured her how fun it will be to make friends with all of the 7th graders,   I have cried in my room in frustration and anger.  But our relationship has gotten better. She has been doing  her homework, and getting better grades.  She even comes out of her room and talks to us now!

 My reply:
 As a mother you attend many funerals....the funeral of the dream of having your child potty trained before age 3, the funeral of the dream of your home being always clean and tidy, the funeral of the dream of having children who all play two instruments.  But after you cry and bury your dream, you find a peace and calm come to you as you accept your children as they are and life as it is and your season of time as it is now in the present. 

You have to accept who YOU are, and bury the dream of being like someone else.  I just had to experience that AGAIN today as I sat in the airport waiting room wishing I looked like that lady over there, and that one just over there.

Satan wants us to be discouraged, depressed and down on ourselves.  Well, get thee behind me, Satan.  And get out of my daughter, Faith's way!  She'll bulldoze you to the ground and you'll be wondering what hit you.
Love you Faith,

 My son's reply:
In the words of Jeffrey Holland a few weeks ago:

"In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, 
in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.

So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who 
 serve with you… Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, 
imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be 
terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. 
And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in 
the divinity of the work. 
As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, 
it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels 
can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels 
include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving."

- Ammon

 I hope this has helped some of you. If you have additional thoughts, please add them in the comments. 

Thanks for reading, 



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