What makes a good parent: My deep, dark secret

If you’re here because you clicked on the title… I’m sorry. I think I might have duped you. Why? Because I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what makes the ultimate “good parent”. I was hoping you’d know. But then again…

Who does know how to be a good parent, definitively?

Sure, we can all reach into the crevices of our minds and pull out one – or several – examples of traits that don’t make a “good parent”. But in recent years, I think I’ve reached a point in my own personal evolution where I just do not – cannot, for I have no right to – judge anyone in the way they raise their children. I am just so not interested in any of that. It’s rampant in society, and it appears to me that the more privileged we have it, the worse it is.

So while I don’t know about the makings of a good parent, I do have a deep, dark secret. That part of the title was accurate.

I’ve just spent an evening yelling at my child (that’s not the secret). There. I’ll tell you that much. It was an old tape. It was the one that goes, “I’m not a slave and I feel like a broken record! If you can’t be responsible for your things – and stop leaving them places in the expectation that ‘someone responsible’ will collect them up and return them to you – then you will lose your things! And we will not replace them!”

Look at this perfect creature! What right do I have to yell at someone who was a cute as a button toddler only minutes ago?!

Deep breath.

It’s a stage. My delightful little girl is more interested at this point in her life in being distracted. By things. The more social (or potential for a spontaneous, carefree dance), the better. Thing is, I’ve created a rod for my own back, with all this “I’ll just clean up after her, it saves the agony of waiting for it to get done and I’ll… look, I’ll teach her when she’s older.”

Yeah. Except, I’ve been saying that to myself for about five years now. It’s much harder to teach someone who can set their jaw and walk away.

I said to Steve the other night that this foster care business isn’t a “done deal yet, just because we’re doing the training these next two months. They may not want us.”

Once they find out more about me, I mean. I’m fighting down the fear that all this will end up being is a big, fat confirmation that I am a piss-poor parent and role model to my own child, let alone anyone else’s. Talk about Imposter Syndrome. I still think some days that I’m playing grown up’s, much less playing parents. I’ve never purported to having the answers, more accurately I bumble around flying by the seat of my pants and relying on my intuition. And I know I’m not alone. But I am about to feel the heat of deeper inspection from a government agency that makes me prickle just slightly. In school, I was always the do-gooder kid who was never in trouble… Except, I had an unnecessarily guilty conscience and if I knew that someone else was up to no good, my face would give me away. Which made me get in trouble! If a friend whispered to me, it was I who was given the punishment. As far as fall guys went, I was your… girl.

I was somewhat heartened the following day, though, when I admitted my deep, dark secret to a neighbour. How I lay in bed most nights and say to myself “You are so shit at this”. She hit me in the arm and almost dived on me. “ME. TOO!” Now… I realised before this that there are plenty of people out there who are in the same frame of mind. But it was good to, er, get a shot in the arm reminder. A flesh-and-blood confirmation. It was validating, in a way.

And instead of affirming that godawful self-doubting voice and making that stronger, it compels me to use the out-loud admission (and acknowledgement) as a stepping stone. To be better. To strive to smooth out tomorrow all the wrinkles on that crumpled page of today.

Today, with all these models of how to be a good “this” and perfect “that” around, those kinds you have to buy then read before applying them – something I’ve rarely, if ever, subscribed to – it’s little wonder a person can begin to go under with their feelings of inadequacy. Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve got plenty of sure-fire ways of making myself feel inadequate already. I don’t need to follow or buy any more! I don’t want the manufactured formula applied to my life. I want to be more satisfied with all the things that I often perceive as faults in my parenting (unique to me, which rationally I know are not) and grow from accepting that I can’t be all things to all the people in my life, nor can I be all perfect all of the time.

The thing is, I believe the potential is in every one of us to change, to improve, to better those things that are stifling and driving a person crazy. Even if it means they realise that what is driving them crazy is something external to them and can’t actually be changed by them…. that’s a hard one. Because that requires a person to accept the challenge of changing their choice to be wound-up by that external thing.

So in that vein, I am a tree. I can bend. I will NOT pick up those discarded pyjamas from the floor that I KNOW I handed her, folded neatly, this morning and encouraged her to leave on her pillow. I will resist the urge to kick that dancing bag (well… the bag isn’t dancing, it’s got her dance gear in it) out of my way where it was dumped in the hallway this morning.

And I won’t even clench my teeth as I do it. See? I’m making efforts to improve today already.


How about you? How are you going at this gig?



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