There isn’t such a thing, right?
And yet, many parents aspire to be perfect, or at least good. Before I became a parent to Hope, I was a hopeless perfectionist. My control freakdom tendencies lead me down some dark paths at times, but I also attribute my personal success to a mix of blessings, dumb luck, and hard work characterized by a need to control as many variables as I could manage.
I can’t say I like problems, but I like and pride my ability to solve them. For much of my life, I’ve been pretty good at it. A lot of my identity has been tied up in the pride of figuring stuff out and making things happen.
And then I became a parent.
Oh, and I became an adoptive parent to a kid who had endured many more of life’s hardships than I care to think about.
My earliest parenting moves were scrutinized by social workers. They were also scrutinized by numerous people in my life, and all of these people had the best of intentions. And all of these people had opinions, and many of these people didn’t mind sharing them.
It was a lot to hear and a lot to absorb.
More than a few parents shared their thoughts, even though there was little experience about parenting a kid who had experienced the kinds of things my new daughter had. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to manage my own emotional response to what I perceived as folks “not getting it” and feeling strangely tiny. I felt small because all these experienced parents around me giving me advice seemed to have figured things out and yet I felt like no solutions worked for me. The lack of ability to problem solve and/or control anything was devastating.
Add in the wicked adjustment period for Hope that included some really tough behaviors, and I swear I wonder how either of us survived.
I wrote a lot during those early days and months. Some of the frustrations I expressed in my blog, well, I probably wouldn’t do the same way in retrospect, but it is what it is. I own it in all its truth.
In those days, the parenting problems were endless, new, overwhelming, devastating…and I had no control over what had been a pretty carefully constructed life and well, persona.
The feelings were new, raw, scary, terrifying actually. Not only did I feel like crap, I felt like I was actually crap, identity-wise.
I found that my problem solving skills worked, but instead of being able to create a way out, I had to choose from a set of options, none of which seemed appealing, and pray that something brought some kind—any kind—of peace.
It rarely seemed to bring peace.
I quickly learned in those days that perfection would forever be elusive. I would have to learn to just shoot for great, then it slid to good, then it flirted with just good enough and then there were some days that the goal was to just keep Hope alive (ha! Jesse Jackson pun unintended but apropos).
I did and said things that still offer consequential ripples across my life. Some moments I actually spend a lot of time pondering some of the challenges—real, imagined, and emotional—that dominated the first six months of my life with Hope. I have a few regrets, just a few things that I could’ve and should’ve handled differently, but I look at the foundation that I created for me and Hope and I can say that I got it right. There isn’t much, given so many challenges, that I would’ve done differently.
Fast forward 18 months and I fear I criticize or second guess myself so much more than I did at the very beginning. I mean, I know I didn’t know what I was doing then; now it seems like I should have more of a clue.
Most days I feel like I’m failing more than usual. Not a day goes by when I go, “Well that didn’t go like I thought” or “Could I have done something different? Better” or “FML—that was the best I could come up with?’ I replay the days’ interactions like they are on a DVR. I rarely pat myself on the back. I rarely think I deserve it.
It’s super hard. I constantly have to remember that perfection is impossible. Like everyone else, I’m just trying to do the best I can.
I hope one day to be known for my many accomplishments. I know that Hope will be one of those; hopefully, not because I adopted her, but rather because I raised a triumphant, young warrior who was able to overcome her history and step into a healthy life. If I can do that or even get really, really close to that, it will be my single greatest achievement.
And I hardly ever feel like it’s possible. It feels like a heavy lift that is often too much to bear. It’s hard. It’s heavy. It’s lonely. It’s traumatic.
It’s…so very hard some days.
But I guess it doesn’t require perfection. It can’t, because perfection simply doesn’t exist, right?
Even though I intellectually know this, I, like so many other parents, will continue to chase it and fail to find it.
I think if I can truly learn to accept that, it will be my second greatest achievement.
October 19th, 2015 at 9:49 pm
Nobody is the “perfect” parent. It really comes down to how you define “perfect” anyway. There are plenty of parents out there who are all too ready to judge other parents for their parenting style or whatever but one wonders if they themselves ever engage in any self-reflection and objectively judge their own parenting skills. What standards do they apply when making those assessments. In the end, we all try to do our best and we just have to accept that our own personal best is all we can do or try to achieve. That in itself could be seen as perfection if we ever manage to achieve it. I wonder if any of that made sense.
October 19th, 2015 at 9:53 pm
Totally made sense. We have to define perfection or at least our best but our own standards. It’s tough and it’s especially hard when you feel like folks are judging you while living in glass houses. It guess we all have to just do our best and forget the rest. 🙂 Thanks for reading.
October 19th, 2015 at 11:02 pm
We’re due for our first placement in the coming months and I am bracing myself. I can’t imagine how we will react individually, and as a couple, to the stress that parenting will bring. I’m so grateful to have blogs like yours to help out. 🙂
October 19th, 2015 at 11:43 pm
Friend, I have a 14 year old daughter who just happens to have my genetics and I second guess my mothering abilities ALL the TIME! Parenting teens is tough and you’re doing grrrreat! It is hard! Life is hard! It’s hard for our girls… I think harder than it was for us growing up. Just today I wanted to cry when she told me about her day. You’re doing awesome and know that we all struggle!
October 20th, 2015 at 9:56 am
The only thing I would add is that “perfect” parenting is NOT flawless parenting. There is no such thing as flawless, but perfect might include all of the mistakes, and demonstrating how to overcome them. It’s important for Hope to see your flaws so that she can learn to accept her own. We all have them!