Just as I was feeling like a terrible mom I saw an article titled “10 Ways to Raise Super Perfect Kids Who Will Be Way Better Than You Could Ever Be Because Your Upbringing Sucked!!!!!” in my newsfeed—okay, that probably wasn’t the EXACT title but that’s how I read it. I clicked the link hoping to get some new tips on how to not completely suck as a parent.
The list was pretty much like every other here’s-how-not-to-mess-up-your-kid list I’ve read: half stuff I could never use, and the other half stuff I already knew I should be doing but completely suck at actually following through with it.
I clicked away feeling even worse, knowing that my kids would probably grow up to be serial killers, or worse–whatever is worse than a serial killer maybe serial killer who listens to Nickelback, I dunno.
Before I know it they’ll be jamming out to raunchy rock songs while composing letters to police departments from magazine cutouts. Various typefaces would spell out details of the latest homicide that only the murder would know.
And it’s all because when surrounded by their attention demanding chaos I can never muster up enough empathy for them. I just need them to stop putting socks in the dogs water dish, or spitting food on me, or kicking me in the face. So, I do what most moms do at their breaking point. I yell. Or cry. Walk away, or offer them all candy. I almost never do something I read on one of those lists.
It’s self-preservation. Selfish self-preservation.
Those lists only remind me that I’m doing it all wrong. Parents are always supposed to think of their kids first. We’re supposed to be able to put our emotions aside and make the best choice every time. I must be a horrible person because sometimes I just can’t react to tiny innocent humans calmly. When anxiety sets in, I never react the way I want to.
I’ve been doing this for 16 years and I still find myself occasionally yelling when the toddler bites the dog or pulls her tail. I still use bribes when I am too exhausted to try reason. I still fall back on the methods that work right now, but have no hope for teaching any skills for the future. I still sometimes suck as a parent.
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I’ve tried so many tips, tricks, and parenting hacks, and none of them made things easy. The truth is, parenting has always been a struggle for me. I keep them alive. I sometimes make them happy. I have my good days amongst the terrible.
Maybe I am a failure. I fail to have endless patience for them quite often. Some days every little thing my toddler does takes me one more step off edge; it’s only a matter of when—in Looney Toons fashion— I’ll look down, realize I stepped off the cliff long ago, panic and fall.
But none of this means that all the parenting advice is crap. It just means that sometimes I have to be kinder to myself. This parenting thing takes a long time to master and the only way to really become good at it is to do it, make mistakes, and learn from them. It’s okay to still need practice. It’s okay to not be an expert yet.
And hopefully they won’t grow into horrible people.