Pretend for a moment that every parent on the planet has this one simple fact in common: we all have exactly twelve flaws as parents. Not that these flaws are the same for everyone. Many of us have similar configurations fitting into similar patterns while also being stunningly unique in how messed up we actually are.
Now pretend that someone comes along and tells you that having these flaws isn’t actually a problem . . . unless you also have “the thirteenth parenting flaw,” the one that makes the other twelve almost impossible to deal with.
What’s this thirteenth flaw? The belief that you shouldn’t have the other twelve.
Here’s the deal about the thirteenth flaw: it always includes blame. This blame is always built on the illusion that there is “an answer” for our imperfection as parents and we should already know it.
The hidden (insidious) message: “Imperfections do not belong in parenting.”
(Good luck with that.)
This much we know: We all struggle as parents. All of us. No one is perfect. Indeed, any attempt to be perfect is by its very nature a sign of imperfection.
When we fight our flaws as parents they turn to stone and sit on us with a weight we can barely withstand. Then we either fall into shame and guilt – continually berating ourselves or we pretend that we don’t make mistakes and, inevitably, find someone else to blame (our children, our partner, our upbringing).
When we honor our inevitable flaws, when we can bring kindness, acceptance, and understanding to the mistakes we make as parents, something shifts. New possibility and wonderful surprises start showing up for us and our children.
Blame has never helped a parent become a better parent. Being kind to ourselves flows from understanding that parenting is a remarkably difficult task, that we all make mistakes, and that our deep intention to do what’s best for our children is what matters.
As we keep saying children are remarkably good at reading between the lines. They can tell when we’re anxious and self-critical. They can also recognize when we are able to honor ourselves for doing the best we can under often difficult circumstances.
Being kind to ourselves increases our capacity to be kind to those we most love.
It just may be that in our willingness to honor those twelve inevitable parenting flaws our children get what they need most of all.