Last weekend at Target, I came across this journal in the stationery section. It’s a journal with writing prompts for parents to write why we are less than perfect and to check off our parental shortcomings. No, really. I knew you might not believe me, so I took a picture.
Are we supposed to bring this to a confessional when they graduate from high school to become absolved from being imperfectly human?
I don’t know a parent alive today who needs a reminder of the enormity of the therapy bill they’re racking up just trying to keep it together. From paying bills, juggling work requirements, keeping the house clean enough to keep the health department at bay, getting homework done, extracurricular activities, making dinner, etc., modern day parenting might need its own diagnosis. Post traumatic parenting disorder? Is it any wonder our hair goes grey so fast?
Being present with our kids — perhaps the only job that really matters — takes a back seat when we’re under that much pressure to be super mom or dad.
Having both a teenager and a 7 year old is a good contrast for me to remember how fast it all goes by. I haven’t forgotten all of the bad decisions I’ve made with Max. Yes, I remember them just fine without a neurotic journal. I have to work to remember the good things I did for Max. I know my intent has been good, though my execution often was not. And hindsight… well, you know.
As parents of the next generation of grown ups, we’ve got a big job. The role of humans on planet earth is changing in ways we’ve never seen before. The old rules of engagement are changing, the old systems of education, work, and relationships are shifting in ways we can only imagine. Information is disseminated in ways we never dreamed of, and the entirety of human knowledge and experience is at our fingertips. Education is morphing into something far beyond chalkboards and number 2 pencils.
We humans created the internet, and the internet is changing humanity. Our kids get this, I think, more than we do. Even having worked in internet-related fields for much of my life, this is still much more my kids’ world than it is mine.
So, what’s a parent to do when the challenges and pressures are greater than ever, and the wellbeing of the most important people on the planet, our children, hangs in the balance?
I have some rules. They’re mostly to keep me sane.
Grades matter much less than laughter. Creativity and passion matter much more than tardy slips. Appreciation matters much more than attendance. Connection matters more than discipline. And yet, there’s room for grades, discipline, and showing up, too. They just don’t take precedence over what really matters.
Lucky for us, there’s a school that shares my love of life-long learning and creativity without stress, and we’re enrolled in it.
Though the parenting journals at Target might not understand, being aware that I am an imperfect parent teaches me to be a better person. When my kids are facing a challenge, I know that there’s a message for me in there, too. Recently, Max wrote a really amazing poem. His teachers at school were astonished, and when I got a hold of it, I was really proud. And yet, he’d rather not have too much attention called to his writing. That’s a message for me, too, in a way. I can’t encourage him to publish his work if I’m not willing to publish mine.
If I want to see qualities expressed by my children, I need to express that myself. I have to let go of the small stuff and move beyond excuses. I have to follow my own passions and get excited. I have to keep my heart wide open. And I have to stay present and I have to step into my own potential. I have to stay positive in the face of uncertainty, and I have to approach my own life with grace.
After all, isn’t that what I wish for my own kids? How can they find all of that if I won’t allow it for myself?
We’re all less than perfect parents, and that’s entirely okay. Letting go of that need to be perfect, knowing we’re going to screw up somehow, allows us to be who we are to the best of our ability and loving with all we’ve got. There’s freedom in that, for us as parents, and for our kids, too.
I hope that awful Target journal stays blank forever.