Raise your hand if when you sip coffee from your “World’s Best Mom” mug you feel a liiiiiittle bit fraudulent. Just enough that you deliberately drink it left-handed so the text is facing you, not out into the world where people can see the discrepancy between that statement and the slightly more accurate three-star parental rating across your forehead. Okay, put your hands down and stick around, for I have something I want to say to you today.
I am an imperfect parent just like you, and think it’s a wonderful thing to be.
Our kids look up to us, whether we want them to or not. They think we are beautiful and brilliant and perfect, which makes for flattering Mother’s Day cards once they can write these opinions out, but also casts a bit of a shadow. You see, many kids grow up thinking they’ll never be as good as their parents, no matter how much they wish to be so. Combine this desire with a parents’ desire to encourage their kids to have even more opportunities to shine and be better than they ever were at that age, and it can get a bit overwhelming. It can make a kid not even want to try.
This is why I’m pleased as punch to be a total screw-up.
Most of what I try to do fails spectacularly, and my children get free front-row seats to these debacles, over and over again. I’ve made too many inedible meals to count. I’ve sung at the top of my lungs in a pitch that made doves cry. I’ve built furniture backwards while following the instructions. I’ve caused small fires while using electronics. I’ve played video games and by “played video games” I mean broke records for how quickly I can use up all my lives in video games. I’ve broken promises that were genuine. I’ve super glued my fingers together doing crafts. I’ve electrocuted myself three times working around the house. I’ve researched fun activities to do with my kids that turned so nightmarish they’ve begged me to make it stop. I’ve tried the new math and come up with answers that weren’t even real numbers. I’ve jumped into so many things with a can-do attitude that I could, in fact, absolutely not do—or at least not do well upon first attempt.
One might think this is terrible role modeling, but here’s the rub: I keep trying.
I try and I fail and I laugh (sometimes while giving myself first aid) and I try again, or move onto the next thing to try. Yes, I’m a hot mess of imperfection, but I don’t let that stop me. I don’t let it get me down. And my kids have witnessed this every step of the way. They are growing up not fearing failure, knowing that troubleshooting and hard work are huge parts of the process of most successes. Not luck. They also are learning that not being the best at something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it or can’t enjoy it.
In my opinion, perfection is highly over-rated. I’d rather have my kids grow up to be people who are willing to try and try again, than only slide into the comfortable seat of a risk-free life. Life requires a certain level of resiliency, and how can they be compelled to acquire that important capability if they never witness the ones they look up to the most taste failure and keep taking bites out of life, anyway? If they never taste failure, themselves?
We’ve all seen the superstar parents who are perfect at everything they do, but what if those parents only seem perfect because they won’t do things they think they might screw up? What kind of life is that? What is that teaching their kids?
I have found talents I never knew I had among the debris of the messes I’ve made because I was willing to make the messes. I have found joy in places I never expected because I was willing to try to find my way. I have found the grit to keep working on the things I loved to do and wanted to get better at after shaking off the failures at things I realized I wasn’t as passionate about.
I truly hope my kids find their talents, their joys, and their passions in life, just as I have. One day they might even thank me for being so bad at so many things, for they have seen me fail many, many (many many) times, and have positive results. I think it’s giving them the bravery to try—just try—and that’s all I can ask for.