Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
One of the things that I think that as parents we often make a mistake of is this idea that our children should be perfect. What do I mean by that? What do I mean? Do we really expect perfection? Well, I hear a lot of us because, at one point, I was certainly guilty of these: you have to get straight A’s; you have to always tell the truth; you should always be clean and smell good; you should always have a great attitude; you should want to learn. Should, should, should, should, okay?
And then, one day, I found myself in a very interesting position. I found myself in a position where a girl had hit one of my girls, and when I went and talked to the mom, despite the fact that there were physical traces of what had happened, Mom turned around and looked at her girl and said, “You didn’t really hit Emmi. Did you?” and the little girl looks up, “No.” “You were just playing. Weren’t you?.” “Yes. I was Mommy”. “You would never hurt someone on purpose. Would you?” “No, Mommy.” Do you think I’m exaggerating? No, I’m not. That really happened. I was pissed, pissed! Furious doesn’t even begin to explain it. Not with the kid, but with the mom who had been feeding her with the answers.
And I thought, why can’t you just accept that her daughter hurt my daughter, whatever the reason, and have her apologize, and give her a consequence? Try to keep this from happening again. Especially since just a couple of weeks earlier, she had been saying to me that she had a lot of problems keeping her two daughters from hitting each other. She couldn’t get that under control. And so, I went home, and I was pissed, and I stood on this for weeks, and months and I have to admit even a couple of years. Okay, I was so upset! I was upset!
And then I realized it’s just an extension of that unreasonable expectation. Unreasonable expectations that we have on our kids. For example, you should always have perfect grades. Man, let me tell you, I harp on that one so hard. And I harp on it primarily because I saw it as the foundation to success, okay? And it would certainly give me my professional success and lead to my professional satisfaction. But my way is not the only way! And I understand that, but not when it comes to my children, I didn’t want to see that. I wanted perfect grades no matter what, and I wanted to hear no excuses.
And then God gifted me a child with ADHD. That has been a humbling experience, okay? My Andy usually tests in the ninety-ninth percentile for Math and usually between ninety-eight and ninety-nine for Language Arts. Her grades can be a little yo-yo-e, meaning she has mostly A’s with a couple of B’s peppered in there. What really drives me crazy is that when she doesn’t get good grades it’s not because she can’t do the work, it’s because she doesn’t do the work. Okay. So, those usually compose her bad grades, and I get frustrated because I think, “I know you’re smart, I know you can be hardworking. What is going on?”
Well, here’s the thing — what’s going on is, she’s my ADHD superhero. But like all superheroes, she has her kryptonite. Her kryptonite is she has no executive skills, okay? She has a really hard time organizing herself. She has a really hard time with the concept of time. And a lot of times, she thinks that things are going to take a certain amount of time, and ninety-nine percent of the time, her expectations are not realistic.
So, I have two options: I can hound her and make her life miserable, or I can accept that my child’s not perfect. I can accept that my child is not perfect, and I can help her cope with her kryptonite and understand that even though I’m going to give her coping mechanisms, not all of them are going to work for her. And you know what the ones that do work for her? They’re not going ever to cause her to have perfect executive function skills. It’s just never going to happen. So, I accept that, and instead of hounding her and make her feel bad, I’m thrilled that she got six A’s and one B. And I’m proud of the fact that she works hard to be there.
Emmi is the opposite. Emmi has always been the perfect child. What do I mean by that? People would come in and would always point out that Emmi was such an easy child, and Emmi smiled easily, and she’s a people pleaser. So, you always think that she’s doing a great job at everything, and she doesn’t argue. Well, that’s changing. Her mom’s a bad influence on her. Yey, mom!
Okay. At first, like everybody else, I am so happy that I had this perfect child, except that I realized as things started moving all wrong, she was never really perfect. She just hid her imperfections better, and more importantly, trying to hide her imperfections was stressing her out. It was giving her anxiety attacks. That’s not good. So, I really have spent a lot of time working on helping her express her imperfections.
The last semester of seventh-grade, Covid hit, right? And she went through this period where she was depressed. She was really struggling with the changes in our society. And of course, she also decided to start watching the news, and she sees the riot, and she sees the violence, and so her anxiety is getting so bad. And she didn’t do well as she typically does on her grades. She had a B. She was so upset that we were not upset with her that she gave herself an anxiety attack!
She wanted to know why this was acceptable, and we keep saying, this is a really rough period in life for all of us. All of us, okay? You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay. It’s healthy, not to always be perfect. Hell, as far as I’m concerned, the best part of us is that we’re not perfect, okay? We’re not. We’re just not.
Dora continues to be our biggest challenge. She is incredibly smart. But she’s also smart enough to know that she doesn’t want to be that smart. She doesn’t quite enjoy that. I’m not sure why, but she doesn’t like it. So, she spends a lot of time tripping herself up, not turning in her work on time, not being kind to others. And at first, I would get so angry because why not turn in something that comes easy? I mean, it’s easy work. She doesn’t have physical challenges or cerebral challenges. Why not just turn it in? Or why say something that you know is going to hurt somebody’s feelings?
And then I realized — this is their time! Hers! The teen years are the time to try new things. Find out if we like something. Find out if we don’t like it. Test those boundaries. It’s also the time when we start to determine what we want for the rest of our lives, and there’s nothing wrong with stepping back and saying, “Something is not just for us.”
And I think that in Dora’s case, she came to a family that places a lot of value on academic success, and that was not part of her culture, and she is definitely adjusting. But the thing is that even though her grades don’t always reflect it (and primarily because she doesn’t turn in her assignments or doesn’t complete them), her work often reflects that she’s picked up a lot of the skills that she’s going to need when she goes on to college because that she’s interested in. And let me tell you, I think she’s going to be a fabulous entrepreneur. But she needs the space. And that is one thing that I’m learning from my daughters, definitely in their teen years, okay?
Especially after they explore lying. Boy, let me tell you how much fun that is. They need to do it. They need to go through this. I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to accept it, but I don’t have to act like the devil possesses them because they told me a teenage lie. And let’s be honest, when I was a teenager, I lied all of the time — to my parents, to my siblings, and mostly to myself to escape the situation that I was in.
I’m not saying that my kids are lying for that reason, but I’m saying that it’s part of a normal process, and it’s not that big of a deal. And when it happens, we can say, “It’s not okay.” We don’t accept it, and this is something they need to move away from, but again we don’t need to act like they need to be incarcerated.
And I loved the other day when I was watching The Big Bang Theory, and at one point, Penny and Leonard are talking about Leonard being jealous of Penny’s ex-boyfriend’s financial windfall, and Penny says, “I’m jealous of it too. It turns out we’re both petty.” That’s the thing, okay? It’s been driving me crazy the last couple of years that my girls have turned into total drama queens. All three of them.
Oh, my goodness! But it’s not that big of a deal. Why do we act like these things are such a big deal when the reality is that they’re not. They’re going to outgrow this. Well, let’s just say most people outgrow this phase. And so what if one ends up being a drama queen? Who knows? Maybe she’ll win an Oscar for her performance, or she’ll be a great writer.
It’s okay. And I have found myself saying to the kids more and more, “I don’t need you to be perfect. I just need you to be the best version of you that you can be.” And I realized that that is all that we can do, all of us—just every day trying to work to that best version of ourselves and accepting that we’re not perfect and that we don’t always feel like trying.
Let me tell you when Bug picks one of his boogies out of his nose, and his nose is bleeding again cause he enjoys picking his nose to get those boogies out of there. Ugh! Drives me bonkers! I certainly hope that he outgrows this phase sooner rather than later. But hey, he’s five!
I was looking at Kindergarten proficiencies, and I realized, “Shit! We’re behind this year. What’s going on? He should know how to do this by now. He should know how to do that by now.” Covid! Covid happened this year. The pandemic happened this year. I have three pre-teen now teen girls who have different emotional needs. The pandemic has put on a big strain on our family, just like everybody else. And I realized, “Cut the kid some slack. It’s not that big of a deal that he still can’t put his letters in the right order, and he’s in denial when it comes to the numbers.” He needs a little more time, and we have more time. We don’t need to stress out.
And it’s okay that he’s picking his nose — lots of kids at that age pick their nose. Thankfully the girls outgrew it. He will outgrow it too. Here’s hoping, right? But what if he turns into a great man that still picks his nose? You know what? I can live with that. I’ll just hope that he finds a woman that can live with that too. Or a man — you’ll never know.
So, what’s my gift of imperfection? I’ve given up on the expectation that my kids need or should be perfect. Instead, I accepted that they needed to go through different phases, and I accept that even after they go through those phases, they’re not going to be perfect. I just honestly hope that through all of those phases, through all of their experiences, they learn to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.
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