Can you just imagine being the perfect parent? Always knowing just the right thing to say in every situation. Knowing just how to respond to whatever is happening. Knowing how to get everything done, perfectly and on time. Knowing exactly how to provide everything your family needs and at the same time providing for all of your own needs. Knowing how to be the perfect role model of health and self-care. Knowing how to treat each of your child's injuries and ailments while never getting sick yourself.
How wonderful does that impossible dream feel - to be completely free of parental guilt. To have raised your children entirely within your values. To have never yelled, or hit, or made a mistake in the heat of the moment when tempers were high. To have given your children just the right amount of support and independence. To have always been there when they needed you, having never let them down.
But I ask you, how would it feel to be your child. To be sitting in the principal's office after they made a mistake and knowing their Mum couldn't possibly understand, because she doesn't make mistakes. Or to be sitting on the edge of the playground, not quite sure how to join in the game and knowing their Dad couldn't possibly understand, because he always knows the right thing to say. How would it feel to be the child that hit out at their little sibling after they stole a toy, filled with guilt, and knowing that you could not possibly understand, because you have never done that...
How much more valuable is it to show your child how to repair relationships and fix mistakes, by doing it yourself? How much more valuable is it to be able to tell the stories of the misadventures you have experienced, so they know that you can understand their experience of life? How much more valuable is it to struggle with regulating your own emotions, so they can see that they are not alone in that struggle, that it is OK to be worried, or confused, or angry, or scared and stop to take a breath?
I also ask you, the perfect parent, how would it feel to be your partner, or the other parents that you mix with? Would your perfection give them the confidence to parent well, or undermine their belief in themselves? Would they feel safe to confide in you with their struggles and challenges and give you the opportunity to learn and grow together? Or does this need for perfection drive a wall between us?
Now I'm not condoning violence in any way. And I am definitely not suggesting that you need to deliberately make mistakes or lose control. But next time you don't parent up to your own expectations, don't beat yourself up thinking that you are ruining your children. Instead, take a moment to be grateful that you are not perfect, that you have the opportunity to model vulnerability and remorse, and be a real and relatable human being. Be someone who knows what it is like to try and fail, so that your children, your partner, and your peers, can turn to you in their failing and trust you to understand with compassion, empathy and lived experience.
How perfect it is to be truly imperfect.