I am not a Super-Mommy. I’m not ashamed of it, either. I don’t want to be a Super-Mommy. Heck, I don’t even like Super-Mommies. I’d say I’m an Imperfect Parent, however, that might be implied since I’m writing here. But, I venture further, I dare to say I’m NOT an Imperfect Parent. Ha! There, I said it! You might ask, if I’m not an Imperfect Parent then does that make me a Perfect Parent? Thanks for asking, and yes, it does. Now, hold on a second before running off to call the Slap-The-Bitch hotline on me, let me explain myself. I’m not perfect, but I am a Perfect Parent, and my unique and individual imperfections are what make me so. Not getting it? I’ll try to clarify and maybe in a bit, you’ll boldly declare that you too, are in fact, a Perfect Parent–not despite–but because of your imperfections.
Let’s get the nonsense out of the way at the start. I don’t beat my kids, I don’t neglect them. I don’t lock them in a closet and feed them dog food on paper plates slid under the doors. None of those things are “imperfections” anyway. They’re criminal behaviors. Punishable sins against our dependents. So, now we’ve cleared that up, we don’t need to go down that route again. Imperfect does not go anywhere near abuse. Mmm’K?
Now, on to the so-called imperfections. Helicopter parenting is so popular around here, it’s hard for a mom to keep herself on the ground and not feel like a loser. Kids in my neck of the woods are like conjoined twins—one grubby little kid attached to a full grown woman, who does most of the work associated with being alive. Somehow, this has become our local ideal of what a mother should be. Her success as a parent is defined by how much she does FOR her kid. That’s not me. I’m there to help if my kids need me. I drive, I schedule, I pay. But, I’m not going to DO it. I check homework, I don’t walk though it problem by problem. My kids carry their own book bags and put their own coats, boots and gloves on. The Super-Mommies tut-tut me from underneath the mountain of their children’s belongings while I stand sipping a latte, but I don’t feel bad about it. See, in my world, doing everything for your kids teaches them nothing. They need to fail sometimes to learn how to succeed. The goal is to get your kids able to fend for themselves and move out to live functional lives away from you and provide you with grandchildren to coddle, not to make your kids dependent on you for everything for as long as you live. No grandchildren option in that second scenario.
It has also somehow come to pass that we all are supposed to have the patience and tolerance of the Mother Mary on valium. No yelling, no throwing tantrums or irrational reactions to whatever the little monsters or er, little darlings do. We’re all supposed to admonish bad behavior with carefully rehearsed child-psych approved vocabulary in a gentle sing-songy voice so as to not dent their delicate self-esteem. That’s not me either. I think that’s actually bad. See, I do throw fits when I’ve been pushed over the edge. I’ve been known to over-react when I’m pissed. I’m not ashamed of that either. I’m human. To the best of my knowledge, the world my children live in is inhabited by humans. I don’t see how being some saintly automaton would help them learn to navigate the nuances of human personalities, or how to smooth over an angry person when you’ve done wrong. I think it’s good for them to know that their mother is a human (that in itself is kind of important on so many levels) and secondly that humans react in a variety of ways when they’re shoved over their particular line in the sand. Could be mom yelling, could be a crazy fuck with an automatic weapon. Bottom line is, when people say STOP, they mean it. When my kids are adults and they screw up at work, their boss isn’t going to consult the guru du jour for sympathetic phrasing before letting loose on them. If the kid hasn’t experienced making anyone truly mad and suffering some uncomfortable consequence, how will he not crumple into a fit of tears when he’s yelled at by someone else? Part of building self-esteem is giving kids confidence to handle situations. You’re doing no favors if you don’t teach them how to deal with real people and turn yourself into some Stepford mannequin instead.
I’m not Mommy The Entertainer during all waking hours. I have things I need to do in order for the house to run efficiently. I have chores that need doing during the daytime. Heaven forbid, I know, that my children be forced to run errands with me when they’d rather be doing something else. It’s unthinkable that little kids might have to endure a tiny bit of monotony for the benefit of the rest of the family. I mean, Lord knows I just live for grocery shopping and doing laundry. It’s what I hoped I’d get to do all the time when I grew up. Bad me for not putting them in an environment where they can just play in a ball pit or watch TV while I do the grunt work. No, I drag them along. They learn compromise and negotiation though. You behave at the store and we’ll play a game afterwards. Works for everyone. I also expect that my kids will learn to work through boredom. I do play with them, but most definitely not all day long. They can, and do play by themselves, which is unheard of by my peers.
And finally, I’ve waged war on all things that call themselves educational. It’s the custom here to start at birth in preparing your kid for Yale. I guess before birth, really since there are those headphones you can put on your belly that are supposed to teach foreign languages and classical music. I don’t do flash cards with my toddler. No video games to sneak in learning the alphabet or pre-calculus. I like my kids to play with the cheap dumb toys, like blocks and dolls when they’re little. I guess it’s a wonder they ever learned to talk or write their names, since I held them back so badly, insisting they be children for a while. It drives the Super-Mommies nuts when you do this, try it, really. Super-Mommy slides over to you at the library (with her arms full of coats and snacks) and starts the small talk. You discover your daughters are about the same age (say around two and a half), and she asks if your daughter knows her letters, because, well, they’ve tried everything but her kid still gets half of them wrong and she’s thinking of hiring a tutor, or that Kumon program, do you know anything about that Kumon program? You look at her, and say, “Huh. I don’t know if she knows her letters or not! Hey, Liz, what’s that letter? Yeah, that red thing you’re using as a hammer, it’s a magnetic letter, honey, do you know which letter it is?” And your child responds correctly because she’s somehow learned letters through osmosis. Then you say, “Hmm, I guess she does know them.” Shrug and walk away.
No, I’m not perfect. I’m a human in charge of raising up smaller humans. My imperfections make me the perfect candidate for that job. My children come first and I lead my life in a way that I believe will make them well prepared for life without me. I aim to balance building up their confidence while giving them tastes of reality, to further build up their confidence. I’m not racing for some medal. There is no Best Super Mommy prize at the end. My reward will be when my children are self-sufficient adults, happy, productive and living in a clean house I can visit. So, if you’re like me, then shed that guilt. Embrace those imperfections and hang up that phone, I’m not the bitch you want slapped. I’m just a Perfect Parent, and you probably are too.
In case you’ve missed the advertising and PR blitz, the new book Alternadad is Neal Pollack’s memoir about his struggle to remain “cool” despite having fully entered parenthood. But is he really saying anything new? Isn’t this a pseudo-struggle that all of our generation seems to be dealing with? We’ve discussed the problem of trying to assign yourself a “hip parenting” label, not to mention the fact that there are plenty of moms and dads who have retained their own unique style and personalities while raising their children. The difference is they don’t whine and carry on about how difficult it is, because, quite frankly, it isn’t — unless, that is, you are simply a poseur and trying too hard.
In the current issue of Chicago Reader, our city’s free weekly newspaper, a review of Alternadad by Martha Bayne titled “Alternative to What?” sums it up rather nicely:
But the thing is, there’s nothing new about the parenting model promoted here. “Alternative” parenting isn’t about buying kiddie records from Bloodshot or watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse rather than Barney. And it’s certainly not about dissing other parents whose lifestyle choices you deem bourgeois or square. Alternative parenting might be raising your child in a lesbian commune. Maybe it’s homeschooling. Or breast-feeding till age five. Or absolutely no TV or putting all the food in the kitchen at kid-level and letting him choose what to eat.
For all Pollack’s interest in raising a cool kid, what he really wants — like many parents before him — is a child who’s just like him. The subtext here is how unavailable Pollack’s own “high-upper-middle-class childhood” is to his own kid, not to mention most kids, and I wish this idea had been more fully explored. But pop signifiers of bohemian living aside, Elijah’s being raised by a heterosexual nuclear family in a single-family home in a (slowly) gentrifying neighborhood. His parents want to get him into a decent preschool. They worry about property values and crime. They watch too much TV and don’t have as much sex as they’d like. And they want to give their child unfettered access to the dream of individual exceptionalism. What could be more mainstream than that?
Tell it, Martha, tell it.
All original content © 2002 - 2013 Imperfect Parent®. Imperfect Parent and Mominatrix are registered trademarks.
The views, opinions and information expressed in articles and blog posts published on imperfectparent.com and all subdomains are those of the authors alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Imperfect Parent or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of any entity of, or affiliated with, Imperfect Parent. The Imperfect Parent is designed for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for medical, health, legal, or financial advice from a professional.
Reproduction of material from any of Imperfect Parent's pages without written permission is strictly prohibited.