Spending time with my mother and mother-in-law over the holidays made me realize that in some small way our children – yours, mine and the grocer’s down the street – are “doomed” to dysfunction. Not intentionally, mind you, but it’s often the thing that you see your own parents doing, which you swear you will never do, that ends up being part and parcel of how you parent your own children. Because if nothing else, we are our parent’s children.
Still, you might witness something they do now that you secretly pray won’t eventually manifest in your ageing years if you promise to be vigilant. Call it human nature, but the early warning signs are there.
For example, there are certain things that my mother does that I have had to make a concerted effort not to do with my children. She was a big proponent of the “Do as I say, not as I do” school of parenting. Which means my two sisters and I were not ever “allowed” to question her. You read that correctly. According to the “Law of Birdiline Williams,” if my single parent mother decided something was “best” for us, there was to be no argument or discussion as to why it was best for us. It just was. And that was the end of the discussion.
Now that I’m a parent, I often wonder if this was some sort of self-protection device she used to lessen the amount of talking and explanation that was necessary to “corral” her three children into doing what she wanted us to do at any given moment. If that was the case, I can totes relate.
Some days, all I want to do is not talk. Period. Which I explain to my family by actually saying, “I don’t want to talk anymore.” This non-too subtle way of saying, “I do not have the patience or energy required to explain anything, and I neither do I have the energy, nor the patience, to break down each initiative as if it were a science project.” It simply means that my parenting reserves are empty. Depleted. Dry.
I’m also painfully aware that in order to be a “good parent,” much of what our parents did back then could certainly benefit from a present-day reality check – if the bookshelves aligned with parenting novels are any indication.
That said, I’m a big proponent of the “there is no perfect parent” school of parenting; however, I’m pretty sure that doing certain things will not yield the kind of preferred outcome one wishes for if one doesn’t extend themselves towards perfection just a little. And by “perfection” I mean the textbook examples of how to, say, prevent a tantrum, or to how to foster inquisitive, caring and sensitive children. You know the drill.