There's No Perfection in Parenting

Parents are so weird about the funniest things. When we were at Legoland over the weekend I was watching this toddler girl and her mother wait for the rest of the family to get off of a ride. The little girl wanted to touch the leaves that had fallen into the dirt of a nearby bush. The mom kept swatting her hand away and telling her that they were dirty! “Here” she said, “Play with this nice green one instead.” And she pulled a new leaf off the bush for the girl to touch instead. How funny! I thought to myself, I would have done the opposite and chastised Charley for pulling leaves unnecessarily off tress. I’m learning every parent has a weird quirk that they impart onto their child. Some are obvious---restricted diets, no character toys. Others are less noticeable---don’t play with the dirty leaves. There are so many awkward scenarios in parenting that no one prepares you for. This is the first Christmas that Charley has really been super interested in toys and asking for specific things. Last year he was happy with whatever we picked out, but this year he’s extremely vocal and knows what he likes. The other week, Charley found one of his Christmas toys early. It was a specific discontinued toy I had found on Ebay and painstakingly bid on and hid from him. He spotted it in the loft and started yelling for the toy, “My Lofty! My Lofty!” Matt and I just stared at each other dumbstruck. He was so happy and confused at the same time. Why were we mad? Why didn’t we give him the toy? Christmas and waiting for presents is a tricky thing to explain to a two-year-old.

He only saw the one toy, so we let him have it, but then Matt and I got into a huge fight about it. I didn’t want him to have it, well . . . I did, just not like that. But did it really matter? To him it was just a toy, he didn’t know that he was supposed to get all of them at the same time on Christmas day. He still doesn’t know about Santa and the whole concept of the holiday. And I realized, that’s the story of my whole adult life. I’m happy where I am, but I didn’t expect to get here like this. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I didn’t expect to get pregnant at 22, or not have my dream wedding. I thought for sure I would have a baby girl (I didn’t). I just imagined myself being richer, wiser, maybe more organized as a parent. Instead, I’m still just me, but somehow managing to fulfill the dreams and expectations of this little person as well.

Parenting is all about lowered expectations. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean it in a realistic way. Becoming a parent has forced me to loosen the grip on my perfectionistic ways. It also made me realize how hard my parents worked to make our holidays perfect. I don’t ever remember finding our toys early, or being disappointed in the presents we received. They really made the holiday special. Now I know how much work went into that. Hats off parents, you did a good job.