Link: You’re Doing Your Kid a Favor by Being an Imperfect Parent

http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/10/youre-doing-your-kid-a-favor-by-being-an-imperfect-parent.html

I really really love this piece.

A few thoughts about why it’s great:

  • It’s important to give parents space for moral imperfections, which the article acknowledges. A lot of parents are fine with mismatched socks and snacks in front of the TV, but get anxious over occasionally speaking sternly and losing patience. But it’s good for them to see us role-model acknowledging our mistakes, and repairing relationships where there’s conflict. They can’t see that if we tie ourselves in knots trying to eliminate all displays of human failure.
  • Kids learn useful things from the times when we’re not entirely on top of their needs, too. We don’t want to give them the impression that everyone in the world will understand them perfectly all the time! If the baseline is caring, responsive parenting, the inevitable gaps and cracks don’t detract – they teach our kids how to cope with the reality that everyone falls short sometimes.
  • I really like the bit where she says that aiming for perfection leads to bad choices. All of my worst parenting moments have been where I’ve been trying to do too much.
  • I also like the focus on enjoying the relationship. This is something that my dad did especially well in his one-on-one time with us. He’d announce an activity that he wanted to do, we would be given no option but to go along with the activity, and it meant we did some really fun stuff with him. Once he took us to Cornwall Park with a whole lot of oil paints and some nice thick painting paper and we sat on the steps to paint the trees, and it was a lovely day out – because we were all enjoying it. A parent who had no interest in painting or being outdoors might not have enjoyed it, and for them, it would be a pointless activity. But for us it was great. Part of this is seeing your child as simply a person who you hang out with a lot! When you hang out, sometimes you do what they want to do, sometimes you do what you want to do, sometimes you do things you both like, sometimes you do things neither of you want to do but they have to get done anyway. That’s how life works. This is fairly obvious, but contrary to some of the ideas about parenting as the all-encompassing identity, where we’re meant to put our kids first all the time but somehow simultaneously not raise them to be entitled brats.
  • Conversely, broadly consistent with the article but also a bit contrary to the final paragraph, it’s ok to not enjoy it sometimes! The expectation that we’ll be happy all the time is harmful. I’m a better parent when I allow myself to think, well, this particular patch is a bit tedious but that’s ok, there are lots of good bits in their too.
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