Can You Be a Perfect Parent?
I used to think I could be a perfect parent. Obviously that was before I actually had any kids. I was admittedly idealistic, and I truly believed that if I could read the right books, follow the right experts, and hone my instincts then I could be the perfect parent I envisioned.
Naturally, I have come to learn that a “perfect parent” is as mythical as a unicorn. In fact, using parent as a noun is so limited and constrained that it’s easy to fall into the trap of being a certain type of one. Are you going to be a calm parent, involved parent, in-charge parent, natural parent, positive parent, fun parent, laid-back parent, or simply a surviving parent? The problem is that none of us can define ourselves in this concrete, one-dimensional way. We are human, parenting other humans, and that automatically puts us in the realm of changing, evolving, adapting beings.
Through my own experience as a mother, and even more so through my training as a parent coach, I have realized that viewing the whole parent “thing” as a verb, as a process, is more realistic and fulfilling. Now I get to decide how I parent, which means I get to choose my actions, my words, my boundaries, my values, and my beliefs. I am not simply being this type of parent or that type; I am constantly learning, listening, reflecting, and growing. This gives me the freedom to parent today differently than I did yesterday; to parent my daughter differently than my son; to parent my preschooler differently than I parented my baby. The act of parenting is one of adaptation because it’s navigating a relationship between two people who are constantly changing.
I want to differentiate these perspectives because my whole purpose in being a parent coach is to help other parents open their hearts to the endless possibilities of how they choose to parent. I want to help them get unstuck from past assumptions or patterns, to release them from their baggage, and to let them feel the joy of owning their parenting experience. The journey I travel with other parents, the one I am still traveling every day, is one of discovery and reflection. As Daniel J. Siegel says,
“When we begin to know ourselves in an open and self-supportive way, we take the first step to encourage our children to know themselves.”
Parenting means being a leader and a role model in your family, setting the framework for how you relate to each other. Parenting means knowing yourself as an individual and enabling your children to know themselves as individuals too.
Today, in the digital age of fast-paced growth, artificial intelligence, and globalization in every industry, we want our children to have the confidence and creativity to succeed on their own paths. We also want our children to have care and concern for others so they are community leaders, making positive changes to improve their world. If we continue parenting the way we grew up, or the way everyone else is used to, or the way some expert over there says we should, then we are destined to repeat history and remain stagnant.
In my own family I can see how parenting through choice rather than habit is already impacting my children. Just the other day before school drop-off, my seven-year-old daughter had a look of deep pondering on her face. When I asked what she was thinking she replied, “Well, I’m not sure if my purpose really is music, or singing other people’s songs. It’s something else…it’s just inside my heart.” I was blown away! There’s a lot behind her musing, and I think a big part of it is that she knows she is her own person. She has benefited from our encouragement to make her own choices, to reflect on her actions, and to distinguish her opinions and ideas from others.
She is finding her truth, and is trusting us to listen to her, respect her, and love her unconditionally.
This is the magic that is happening right in our home!
So, do I believe that I can be a perfect parent, or that there is a perfect way to parent? No, perfection is not part of the equation. What matters, and what I believe is possible for every family, is that parents are willing to look within themselves, work to heal themselves, and explore the possibilities of parenting from their deep and authentic sense of self. By finding our own voice through our values and beliefs, we get to create the relationship we desire with our children. I intend to parent with a curious mind, an open heart, and the belief that, while I will never be a perfect parent, I am already the best parent for my children.
Daniel J. Siegel MD, Mary Hartzell (2003). “Parenting From the Inside Out”, p.186, Penguin.
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