On perfection and parenting

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brothers-and-sisters-788179-mNow that school has started again in Mexico, we are adjusting to the new schedule, new teacher and new challenges of first grade. We are still getting used to having to get up at 6:30 a.m. and make it to school with all the important pieces in their tidy places…

…which leads me to wonder out loud: Is it just our household, or do you also have these moments when you notice that your kid is the one with the stain on their shirt?

In our case, my girl’s shiny, straight, bobbed, black hair sometimes sends out a rebellious group of strands that refuse to yield to water or the blow dryer just as we are ready to head out the door for school.  There is nothing that can done to get that fixed and still get her to school on time.

To my eye, other moms obviously have perfectly calm, stainless homes from which their kids are sent forth into the world with everything just right. Their children hold still compliantly while they create works of hair art that would have wowed any 1970s macramé crafter. I do my best, but sometimes the unexpected can happen, like my daughter stepping in a glob of wet cement where workers are paving our road.

I tell myself that if I just get up earlier, or get more sleep, then we’ll do better at getting things together for school.

There are moments when I have to step back from some unexpected frustration or glitch in our routine and try to get myself into a more mindful state. In the midst of a mini-panic over the temporarily lost shoe in the wet cement, I try to remember to breathe so I can get my composure back quickly.

My daughter is watching my every move, my every expression. I’d rather model how to act with the grace of going with the flow. It helps if I recall what really matters most, like my child’s self esteem or our relationship or setting a good tone for the start of one’s day.

When nothing can be done, it is better just to surrender and laugh. After all, haven’t you noticed how life itself has a sense of humor as it serves up challenge after challenge specifically tailored to make us open up and learn how to become increasingly freer beings?

On this journey of raising children into emotionally whole people, there’s no point in giving our energy to fleeting things that have little real consequence for the larger purposes of parenting. So I remind myself that expressing the reflex of judging myself by the quality of hairstyles, shoes or some other superficial thing, really, is not being true to who I am as parent.

I can choose instead to do my best for my daughter while keeping in mind the woman that she will become one day. If that means giving up on trying to get that hair to lay down, I will do so with a chuckle so that our day — her day — starts with happiness in place.

Happiness will lay straight without us having to do anything to it. It is superb grease for moments when there is a potential for friction.

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Author: Tamara Brennan

Tamara Brennan, PhD, is a mom, psychologist and writer living in the borderlands of Mexico and Guatemala. She is the Executive Director of the Sexto Sol Center for Community Action and the creator of Our Cozy Time Story Club, featuring her original stories for children, where she blogs about Attachment Parenting.

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