Organic foods. Low-sugar, balanced diets. Lots of outside time and exercise. Limited screen time (t.v. & computer). Great school. Great physicians. Solid financial plans & practices. Tons of quality time. Patience. Supportive, loving words. Time with friends. Time to work on educational goals. Strong religious connections. Safe neighborhood. Time for sports & teamwork. Flex time to be creative and expressive.
These are goals I have for my own kids, and for us as a family. But I rarely feel like I do a great job with most of them. I yell. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes when I'm not even angry, but because my kids have severe Mom Deafness. I let my kids have too much time at home. I don't work hard enough to set up peer play time for them. I let them eat sweet things. And $5 pizzas. With their organic veg & milk, so that balances out, right? Sometimes our 'quality time' is sitting in front of the t.v. watching Phineaus and Ferb. Sometimes, it's even been Adventure Time. (Which also brings me to the question about that show - how can they possibly write a show that makes you FEEL like you are on a weird drug trip with only a cartoon??)
In a class my daughter and I are in this fall, one mom asked if any other moms felt guilty for telling their children they needed a segment of time each day to do Mom stuff. Lots of moms supported her need to set aside time for making calls, checking emails, or just doing something that a 30ish person would like, and NOT what a 3ish person would like. I call it sanity time. And I've had close and personal relationships with moms who haven't made their own mental health a priority at all, and I don't suggest following that path. It's really difficult to find your way back without a great deal of work. And you will spend a great deal of personal time supporting a variety of medical professionals. I've got better things to do. Today.
So I have been wondering why previous generations haven't shared how guilty they feel for failing their children. I mean, my grandparents were clearly not perfect parents to my mother or father. But every child survived, and made it to adulthood with all the skills necessary to create their own lives. Now there are a few of those children who have done better at creating a fulfilling life for themselves than a few others, but they had big families and the percentages are still pretty good. And they seemed very happy with how things turned out for everyone while I knew them as their grandchild. Oh, and they all taught me a lot about family, finances and attitude. Things I didn't necessarily learn from my parents because we were too close to each other (and I always knew so much more than my parents did, of course!)
I try to remember that when I start to feel guilty. My kids have been provided a safe and happy home with two parents who love them dearly. We will help them, the best we can, to pay for college. We will give them as many opportunities as we feel drawn toward & can afford & fit into our schedule. But I feel like I've already given up so many of my own opportunities over these past seven years. I still make less than $10k a year. I schedule my life around naps (or the potential need for them). I don't feel like I can ever watch a Lord of the Rings movie again, or at least until my kids are old enough to watch it with me. I mean, more than 2 hours for a movie? I feel like I have to squeeze in 30 minutes to write something down on this blog. I pay Netflix to send me 2 movies a month because I can't fit in time to watch them.
But I love my kids, and find an immense amount of joy and fulfillment spending my life raising them. But I refuse to feel guilty that I'm not a perfect parent. There is no such thing. I am only going to promise them that I will be the best parent to them that I can be at each moment. I promise I will make mistakes and give them topics to discuss with their therapist. I think that's also part of my job as a parent. I will give them room to make mistakes of their own too. And I hope they do make them. I hope they try things and fall flat on their faces. And I will always be there to share words of support and love to send them back into the world to try things again. I know that I'm excited for the time when I can head back out to do my own stuff for a good chunk of the day, get paid for it, and rejoin my family to discuss their experiences of the day.
So for all parents who might read this: Give up feeling guilty about not being perfect. Feel proud that you are teaching your child(ren) that the world will not adapt toward their needs, but that they will need to adapt to the world and seek out ways to meet their needs. And by giving up the guilt, you will also teach your children to become parents who will do the same.
'Cuz I'm good enough, Smart enough, and Gosh Darn It, My kids are Awesome!!