I’ll be the first to admit that I am far from perfect in every aspect of my life. Most especially: parenting. It’s so hard. I’ve read a library of parenting books from which I have curated tips and techniques to help me hone my skills. I have surrounded myself – especially during the formative years of parenting – with parent-friends whom I wish to emulate. I have mindfully filled the soundtrack in my mind with positive, effective parenting strategies.
Despite my best intentions – despite all of our best intentions – I am not the parent I want to be. As with many other aspects of my life, my best is about 80%.
Rather than beat myself up for being an 80%er I am learning to practice radical self compassion and grace. That’s no easy task for a recovering perfectionist!
80% is okay. It’s pretty darn good, actually. Let’s take flossing, for example. I’m not perfect at it. But if I can floss 80% of the time then I feel pretty good about myself and I have great check ups at the dentist. I love having a clean mouth, but at the end of the day I’m tired and I really have to remind myself to take the time to floss.
With regard to parenting, what I hope to accomplish in my 80% is all the positive, wonderful things I’ve read about in books or seen modeled by my better-than-me friends. During the 80% time I am intentional, as present as possible, and positive.
What happens during the 20%? Well that’s a little less flattering, I’m afraid. That’s when I’m tired, stressed, hungry, distracted. That’s when survival mode parenting kicks in. And that’s when I speak and act without thinking. The positive parenting soundtrack I have so carefully curated is harder to hear. Now the negative influences of my life take over. Mindfulness is all but impossible.
I am not proud of who I am during those 20% times. But I have learned to appreciate those moments for the good they do. For one, it allows me regular opportunities to apologize to my children. (I’ve written about this before.) But it also allows me to model to my children that sometimes we make mistakes. It also allows them to see that certain situations have certain consequences. (If you say my name a bazillion times, require me to meet your needs without any effort on your part and while forgoing my own, at some point I will snap. How can we work to avoid this in the future?)
Besides, 80% is a strong majority. I hope when they look back on their childhood they’ll remember me as the 80% parent. Now all I need to figure out is how to stay in the 80% zone while I navigate these teenage years. Suggestions welcomed.