The Perfect Parent(s)

I was reading a post on one of my favorite blogs, Love Isn’t Enough (click here), and got myself fired up over that slippery slope that single parents constantly negotiate: the printed word that tells them that they are not enough.  And that in order to have the perfect parenting situation, there must be a mother/father team.   Nothing else will make it right.   Grrr!

Like the writer of the post, I am not a single parent.  My husband contributed in every way to the raising of our children.  From changing the newborn in the middle of the night to coaching Little League, he was Johnny-on-the-Spot.  And I chose to be a stay-at-home mom.  Well, lucky us.  We were blessed.

And not everyone is so lucky or so blessed.   There are parents who choose to be single.  There are parents who team up as same-sex parents.  There are those with friends and extended family.  And there are innumerable working parents out there who, through no fault of their own, end up raising children without a partner.

When I examine my irritation, most of it stems from two premises:

1.  That a well-loved child is not well-parented unless the family fits within a superimposed “norm”.

2.  That any parenting is perfect.

There is no sense ranting about the first.  It will only reinforce my irritation.  So I will just add (once more) my well-known and having-lived-through-the-experience views on my success as a married-to-the-father-of-my-children-parent. (Just so you will know that you can do as well or better.)

The resounding conclusion on my parenting is:  Mixed Reviews.

If you ask my friends they will tell you that I have wonderful, intelligent, educated, talented and responsible children and so I must have been a great parent.

If you ask me, I will tell you that I tried to do my best (! never say that to my children!). I would be lying if I failed to admit that sometimes I didn’t accomplish that goal; when I just didn’t have what it took.  I was tired, I was lazy, I was angry, I was ill-informed and I was self-indulgent.  (This is a partial list.)  I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but I know there were even times when I let things slide on purpose, thinking that perhaps I would just get away with it.

I can’t recall being spiteful or mean to my children.  But I knowing who I was, if I was in some sort of a snit, I am willing to admit that they might have felt that I was being spiteful and mean.  After all, I was over my head most of the time.  I learned as I went and as Maya Angelou says, “When we know better, we do better.”

If you ask my children (who are all parents now) they would still not let me totally off the hook.  Because they are older and wiser, they wouldn’t be hurtful.  They might give you the homogenized, “They did a good job considering…”.  Or, “Yeah, we turned out okay.”

Then if you talked with any one of them for very long, if you had an intimate conversation; the little criticisms would begin to emerge.  They would tell you what they are doing differently with THEIR children.  They might talk about some emotional scars.  Not physical scars.  Although I spanked my children, as I wrote about when my grandson nailed me,  they were raised in a loving if not enlightened environment.

My point is not to brag or berate myself and my husband.  It isn’t to scrape old wounds in my children.  And I like that my friends think I’m great.  It’s just that I don’t believe in the myth of perfect parenting.  And I don’t believe that good parenting depends on the number of parents in the household.

No matter what the socio-economic level, no matter the era in which we live, and no matter what pairing of parent and child we can devise, there is no perfection.  If we spend every spare (key word) minute being loving, if we read to them every night, if we encourage them, guide them, cherish them and keep them safe; it will not always work for each and every one of our children.

There will be miscommunications.  There will be misunderstandings.  There will be mistakes.

Let’s take single parents off the hot seat.  Let’s celebrate their bravery and stamina. In fact, let’s just give all parents a shout out!

We are one!










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