It’s never easy to realise your kids’ teachers probably know all your secrets… that they probably know if you drink a lot of wine, have a potty mouth, or always sleep in until noon on a Sunday – because kids are leaky alibis. And then, you remember that their job is not to judge you, YOU’RE not being assessed here. (God, we fall back so easily on the assumption that there’s going to be a grade given out for every job we’re doing, particularly the really hard ones with no set curriculum, like, parenting.)
I think that’s why this post resonated when shared on Facebook – this idea that a teacher is not assessing you for whether you nailed toilet-training, breastfeeding or sleep training. That teacher knows that they are charged with 20 or more completely unique little humans, with completely unique personalities, who, naturally, come from completely unique families. How could there possibly be a right or wrong way to do any of this… as long as we keep coming back to love, the best we can muster in the moment (also unique, constantly changing, never fixed). Or, as the therapists say “good enough parenting”... which understands that it is not possible, as a human being, to be perfect… that we’re all learning, all the time, how to be human. “Good enough parenting” is parenting that cares, and keeps trying, and learning, and can apologize for mis-steps and stumbles, is willing to course-correct.
Good enough parents do not strive to be perfect parents and do not expect perfection from their children. Perfection is not within the grasp of ordinary human beings. Efforts to attain it typically interfere with that lenient response to the imperfections of others, including those of one’s child, which alone make good human relations possible.
What are these small people? They’re not the way we are assessed. They’re not the proof of our success as a parent. They’re not our avatars in the world. They’re vessels for our love.
“When I look at my little friends, I don’t see their milestones, I see who they are: their heart, their actions, their inner voice, their struggles and triumphs, and I see you: and all the love you pour into them.”
Sammy Losee recently shared this article, and I always appreciate the resources she shares. How do we help our kids be resilient?
I would start with: be kind to ourselves. We’re doing our best. We don’t have to be perfect. Just good enough.
Alain de Botton, the philosopher, writes about good listeners:
What makes people good communicators is, in essence, an ability not to be fazed by the more problematic or offbeat aspects of their own characters. They can contemplate their anger, their sexuality, and their unpopular, awkward, or unfashionable opinions without losing confidence or collapsing into self-disgust. They can speak clearly because they have managed to develop a priceless sense of their own acceptability. They like themselves well enough to believe that they are worthy of, and can win, the goodwill of others if only they have the wherewithal to present themselves with the right degree of patience and imagination…. As children, these good communicators must have been blessed with caregivers who knew how to love their charges without demanding that every last thing about them be agreeable and perfect. Such parents would have been able to live with the idea that their offspring might sometimes — for a while, at least — be odd, violent, angry, mean, peculiar, or sad, and yet still deserve a place within the circle of familial love. The parents would thus have created an invaluable wellspring of courage from which those children would eventually be able to draw to sustain the confessions and direct conversations of adult life.
Isn’t this awesome? You’re not aiming to be perfect. You’re aiming to be perfectly at home with yourself. You’re aiming to accept your weirdness, quirks and awkwardness, and out of that okayness, you will give your small charges – and everyone around you – permission to be, to feel what arises, and to express themselves. To make mistakes. To course-correct. And that makes them a gift, to everyone, because those people tend to be good listeners and communicators, themselves.
We’re in a maelstrom of feelings these days. The latest outbreak numbers in Whistler reiterated how tough it is on the kiddos these days: no playdates, no birthday parties. We’re weathering all the storms, and our outlets are limited.
The security of knowing that someone is watching out for him/her is what allows a child to explore, to risk bumps, disappointment and hurt feelings, and to come out the other side. When children feel safe, they develop a nervous system that is less alarmist, so they recover more easily from upsets. So don’t try to talk him/her out of her feelings when he/she doesn’t get the part in the play. Instead, empathize with the disappointment and honor the grief.
With your support, they’ll feel those big emotions and move past them, instead of freezing them inside, which locks in that feeling of failure.
Every child needs to know that someone is in their corner, rooting for them. Not rooting for them to reach the top, be the best, impress everyone… but rooting for them, as they are, no matter what. Even in the midst of a storm.