On messing up

I’m not a super-parent.

This is not me, since I am not a super hero.

In fairness, this is probably not much of a surprise to anyone but me.

I have made my fair share of mistakes in all other areas of my life, so there’s no reason why I wouldn’t make them in parenting too.

But, when I went into adoption, it was with the desire to help children. I saw myself as someone who would make things better, someone who could fix problems. I did training courses, read books, sought out experience with children with a variety of special needs, and tried to equip myself with extra skills. I wanted to be not just a parent, but a super-therapeutic-parent.

Shortly after my boys came home, I was talking to my dad on the phone, worrying about how I was doing. 

He said: don’t worry so much, everyone makes mistakes. 

And I replied: but, do many mistakes have already been made in these children’s lives. There isn’t room for me to make more. I have to get this right!

Of course, I didn’t stop making mistakes. What I did do was to feel horrendous about every little slip. Every time I didn’t want to play a game, or lost my cool, or ran out of apples; I felt awful. These children had been through so much already, they deserved better from me now!

I haven’t changed my mind about that.

My children are spectacular and they do deserve spectacular parents and a wonderful childhood.

But, I have realised that it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

Spectacular as they are, my children make some pretty big mistakes. They have made some poor choices in the time that they have lived with us. Some of which have backfired and hurt them.

It is not fun watching your children mess up and hurt themselves or others.

But, it’s part of the parenting gig. Sometimes my boys do the wrong thing. And, it’s my job to stand next to them and try to support them in cleaning up as much mess as they can.

I am beginning to see that my children don’t want me to be perfect. They want to see me make mistakes.

My children need to see me make mistakes, own up, and clean up the mess as best I can.

They need me to show the how it’s done. They need to see that mistakes are survivable.

How to survive mistakes and how to apologise with dignity: these are skills that my children definitely need.

So, for everyone’s sake, I try not to panic when I am in the wrong. I try to own up as quickly as I can. And, I hope that I can demonstrate how to cope with being imperfect.

It turns out that my dad was exactly right. All I really need to do is worry a bit less and accept that nobody’s perfect.

He was right and I was wrong. But, that’s ok.


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