The Perfect Parent
Do you believe in the myth of The Perfect Parent? I used to. I spent many years, blaming my parents for all the things they did or didn’t do. The mistakes, the unkind words, the ridiculous rules. I could cite every instance where they hadn’t done the right thing, the thing that I most needed them to do. Poor me – what awful parents they were! They didn’t understand me, they didn’t give me the love and compassion I needed, they just didn’t do anything right. Ever.
So there I was, stuck. Angry with them for all the things they weren’t, and all the things they were. Why were they so awful? How could they have done this to me? Then there came a day where my therapist (yes, I was in therapy, though not just because of my awful parents) suggested that, just maybe, my parents had done the best they could. And that, really, what more could I ask of them? Treason! Heresy! They should have…. But, wait. I started to think about that. What a radical idea – my parents did their best. But what about the time…. Yes, even then. And gradually, it dawned on me. My parents? They’re HUMAN! And like any human, they are NOT perfect! So, no, of course they weren’t the perfect parents. And they had a lot working against them. A couple of young, rebellious kids from a tiny town in the Midwest. They got married as soon as Mom graduated from high school, then became parents 2 days short of exactly 9 months after their wedding. Mom was just 19, Dad was 20. What kind of parent would I have been at that age? (I shudder to think) They struggled for years with little income as Dad went to college, added another child a few years later. We lived in married student housing with mice and cockroaches, and those years are some of the happiest memories I have. But I digress. The point is – they had things hard. And they were so young. They barely had time to get used to being married and adults, and then they had to be parents as well. And I’m certain I was not exactly an easy child to raise. So, yes, they made mistakes. They did not give me everything I needed emotionally. They were never perfect – and they still aren’t. But they did the best they could. And I came to realize that their best was enough.
Now I am a parent, too, and this whole thing comes into clearer perspective. God only knows I wish I could be the perfect parent. Never yell and lose my temper, never say or do the wrong thing, always be exactly what each of my three children needs me to be. Yet, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I love them, I can never be perfect. All I can do, just like my own parents, is my best. Some days that might not be saying much. But what more is there?
My parents love me. And they did their best. And now I understand just how much that means.