The Perfect Parent?

Does the perfect parent exist? Funnily enough I believe there is such a thing as being the perfect parent. This is the parent that tries to be the best they can be for their children, that
strives for perfection but knows it’s okay when they make mistakes.

A rollercoaster ride does describe life in general but particularly parenting. We’re going to have those highs where we feel absolutely fantastic, where we can see what we’re placing in our children is helping them develop into happy, successful children and adults who can live abundant lives. On the other side there are the “oh my goodness am I ever going to get this right?” moments. These moments can come from the tiniest mistakes and will depend on what stage of parenting you’re in. And this is why I’ve referred to the rollercoaster within the
book and named my podcast after it. Parenting does feel like a rollercoaster ride; you have your ups and your downs. When you’re going down you feel like your stomachs in your mouth and you’re questioning “will I get through this?” and “will I be okay?” And when you do reach the top you’re saying to yourself “yes I’ve got this!”

During my own rollercoaster ride I craved for someone older than me who was further along in their parenting journey to help me and give me advice. I was fortunate to look to my mum for guidance but she lived a good nine hours away which made things tricky. As helpful as our parents are, I believe it’s always wise to look to others as well as them for advice.

The desire to do parenting perfectly is a natural thing and we naturally put a lot of that pressure on ourselves. When we’ve been given the precious gift of our children we don’t want to make any mistakes.  Sometimes you may also have people in your life who like to put the pressure on you and make you feel as if you’re not doing something properly and that they could do it better than you.

I’m like every other parent and there are times where I feel inadequate. A significant area of struggle for me was around my eldest child’s Ben eating. These days we have more knowledge and can understand that this was a sensory eating issue. Back then he was labeled as a “fussy eater.” Because there was such enormous pressure from those around me to get him to eat more this added to its significance as a “parenting failure.”

Fortunately for Ben and myself, I had the same challenges as a child and there were lots of foods I could not eat. Looking back now I know that this was sensory eating, but back then I just knew that my stomach couldn’t handle certain things.

When Ben was struggling with these issues I had one particular family friend and another close relative that were convinced that they could teach me how to teach Ben to eat these foods. They believed they could show me how to discipline Ben so he would learn to eat a wider variety of foods.

A few times these people both tried to get Ben to eat their cooking. They would tell me “You’ll see, he’ll eat it the way I cook it.” And I let them give it a go. Mind you knowing there was no way he would be able to stomach this food. He did have a limited diet but it was a very healthy diet. Sure enough, try as they might he couldn’t eat it. Eventually I did have to say enough was enough and that his limited diet could not be put back on to my parenting. I had to take control again.

There’s a big difference between someone encouraging you and coming alongside you and somebody telling you how it should be done. You don’t need to let anyone tell you how they think you should be parenting your child. As that child’s parent you know what is best and should be reliant and confident in the instincts that you have about your child.

My co-host Jenny brought up such an interesting idea. Raising her children in a different culture and country to the one she grew up in means she parents differently to everyone around her. This has allowed her to take different parenting tips and tricks from everywhere and she is able to choose what she wants to influence her and her parenting.

No one person has all the answers. Even when we believe we have the answers to another person’s parenting struggle we have no right to be telling that person how to parent their children. Of course when someone asks you for your advice and input then that’s a different situation. None of us have any right to judge another person’s parenting because we don’t know what that person is going through or the different challenges that they are facing. Every child is different and they may each require a different style of parenting.

There isn’t a secret formula. All we can do is try our best and when you make a mistake have the courage to own up to it, learn from the mistake and go forward. When our children realise that we’re okay with making mistakes then we’re teaching them that we’re not expecting them to be perfect either. We’re letting them know that it’s actually okay to make mistakes and that these will make them stronger not weaker. Not that we are trying to make these mistakes purposefully, we actually try not to make them, but when we do it is okay.

Unfortunately there has been this fear in the past of parents admitting their mistakes to their children. I know that many of my friends would tell me “you can’t apologise to them, you can’t let them know you’ve made a mistake.” They believed that this would undermine their authority. The truth is it increases your authority and your child’s belief in you. It lets them know that you’ll love them whether they get things right or wrong and you’ll be totally unconditional about it. It’s actually quite incredible how unconditional children are with their love for us.

It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable with your children, but it builds courage in them to be free to be their authentic selves. And let’s face it, if you’re not free to be authentic then you’re not free to reach your full potential. The biggest way to teach children to be authentic is to show them that even when they make mistakes they are still amazing individuals.

Ben pointed out the things that we find easy as parents are the things we judge other parents on. And we all do it, it’s a natural human thing to see what someones doing and think how we could do it better. However, it only becomes arrogant when we hang onto that judgement instead of moving past it and realising that we don’t know what is best for that child.

So what is the perfect parent? Does this person really exist? I believe that the perfect parent is the one that knows that they will make mistakes. That will apologize to their child no matter how old they are. The one that will learn from their mistakes. The one that really doesn’t let themselves be under pressure from everyone else to do it their perfect way.

My son Ben asked me what my overall encouragement would be to give to parents who are facing some challenges and lows and feel like they aren’t the perfect parent. So here it is.

Relax, believe in yourself, believe in your child and enjoy the rollercoaster ride. Rather than just embracing the highs and avoiding the lows, we need to embrace the lows. We need to remember that they are there and that they make us and our children stronger.