Do you ever have those less than stellar parenting moments that lead you to wonder if your kids will be telling a therapist all about you in 30 years? Do you worry that you’re screwing up your kids? Let me assure you, an occasional raised voice or an episode when your kids see you in tears is not the kind of thing they’ll talk about years later on a therapist’s sofa.
When people need to seek help to deal with childhood scars it’s usually to address a far more serious pattern or incident. Issues such as years of physical abuse, belittling, humiliating, and shaming are brought up. Incidents such as witnessing violence or being woken in the middle of the night to the sounds of roaring rage, or yanked out of bed to do chores, or take flight. Parents engaged in these types of battles don’t often pause to worry about the impact on their children. Even in these extreme cases, once the children grow into adulthood and process their memories and resulting beliefs, there is immense resilience. They courageously halt the legacy of abuse and neglect.
Many kind, thoughtful parents I work with worry that their imperfect parenting will mess up their kids. Here’s what will actually happen: our imperfect parenting will result in imperfect kids. In other words, they’ll be human. What a great gift we can give our kids: the gift of demonstrating that we can mess up, make it better, and carry on. Passing on the plague of perfectionism is a crummy legacy.
Think of it like this:
I screwed up ≠ I am a screw up
I screwed up = I am human
When we demand perfectionism of ourselves we’re modeling an impossible standard for our kids. It’s not based on joy or growth or humour. It’s punishing and relentless. Let your shoulders drop. Take a deep breath. Leave the housework and the laundry, put down your phone and snuggle up on the sofa with your kids. Heck, snuggle up on the sofa by yourself with a cup of tea and a fantastic book. But please don’t make it a self-help book. Don’t jump on that relentless pursuit to Be Better. Personal growth and development is a fabulous goal, hopefully a lifelong one. But what often happens is that we’re so focused on growth that we forget that sometimes growth happens in the quiet moments of reflection and relaxation. Moments when we stop worrying about messing up.
In an ironic twist, I’m as guilty of this as anyone. This past year I’ve been building an online presence to reach more people in an attempt share what I’ve learned at The Nook. I’ve seen phenomenal results; lives transformed when people develop the skills they need to have better relationships. I want to share this message far and wide to help people breathe new life into their relationships and pass on healthy relational skills. However, learning how to run an online business has been a STEEP learning curve for me and I’m hungry for more information. As a result, every minute that I’m not with my kids, my partner, or my clients I’m voraciously reading and learning. I do become relentless. Taking my own medicine is tough. I prefer the approach of “do as I say, not as I do”.
So here’s a deal I’ll strike with you: I’ll step away from the business books and the urgency to share my skills my broadly, and you’ll step away from the pursuit of perfection. We’ll both slow down and build in some relaxation – whatever that may look like. As we do this for our own pleasure, we’ll also be modeling an important element for our kids. We’re allowed to build delights into our days. We’re allowed to play before work once in a while. It doesn’t make us a screw up. It makes us human. Humans who are making time to enjoy the one life we have.