Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm Not Perfect, But Let's Pretend

I wanted to be the perfect mother, so I did what any modern woman would do, I Googled it. You can learn anything from the internet. I found an article on the World Wide Web titled “How to be the Perfect mother.” You can view it here:

This particular article said anyone can become the perfect mother in only six steps and the article had a difficulty rating of “moderately easy.” I thought to myself, now this is the kind of information I need. Finally, someone has boiled it down to the simplest terms and now, even I, can be the perfect mother.

Step 1: Understand your child is unique. No book, article, parenting class or lecture will give you the exact answers for your child. Take in information, then adapt it to each of your children based on his or her personality.

“Mom, are you awake?”
“Your breath stinks.”

Step 2: Follow your instincts. You should know your child better than anyone else. Even mothers without the "mothering gene" have internal warnings and insights to their children that no one else has.

I was in the middle of cooking dinner so I asked my husband to help with the children. “Honey, can you go check on the kids. I told them to bring that pitching machine up to the back deck and it is taking them a long time. I think there is something wrong.”

A few minutes later . . .

“Well, I checked on them. The older one was carrying the machine and all of the balls while the little one kept hitting him over and over with a plastic bat. Is that what you were envisioning when you thought something had gone wrong?”

Step 3: Be your own kind of mom. Parenting the exact way another mother parents will not make you the perfect mother. Use your own talents and strengths to enrich your child's life and influence your family's activities and schedule.

At Easter I was purchasing eggs for the kids to color and hide in the yard. I always buy the organic eggs even though they are more expensive because I don’t want my kids pumped up with hormones from eating the eggs of steroid enhanced chickens. I was debating getting the low grade eggs for dying, since I knew that no one would be eating them and they were only for Easter activities. I stood at the egg section in the grocery store for 10 minutes trying to talk myself into the lower quality eggs but broke down and bought the expensive organic ones, ‘just in case’ one of the kids ate one hard-boiled egg while hunting for them in the yard. When I got home, unloaded the groceries and prepared the kitchen for egg coloring, I opened my package of 5 dozen organic eggs and knew right away that I should have gone for the hormone laced ones. All 5 dozen of the eggs I purchased were brown.

Step 4: Acknowledge that being a mother is trial and error. Admitting that something is or is not working is key in being a more perfect mother. Being able to identify what works, but especially what does not work allows you to make positive changes for you and your child.

I wanted my kids to learn to be responsible for themselves, and realize that they have a choice between right and wrong. I went on to talk about the fact that rules were not as important as our own internal code of morality. In the middle of my lecture my youngest son began telling me that he was going to sneak out of his room and get candy in the middle of the night and also telling me that I could not stop him. He went on to say that since “I wouldn’t know about it,” I could not punish him. I told him, “Even if I don’t know, your conscience would, and you would feel guilty because you know it would be wrong.” My oldest son then interjected with, “Mom, brother does not have a conscience.” The little one then followed it up with, “Oh, I have one. It is just that I don’t like to use it.”

Step 5: Treat this like a job. Parenting is not something that just happens. It is something that you will have to work at everyday. You have to want to do your best in this occupation to be successful and to see results.

So, I guess that means no driving the kids to school in my pajamas anymore.

Step 6: Know when to step back. Being the perfect mother does not mean that you do everything for you child. Allowing your children to grow and develop on their own will not only strengthen them as they age, but will also strengthen your relationship as mother and child.

“Mom can you carry me?”
“I can’t, you are too heavy.”
“Yes, you can. I know you can.”
“Honey, you are five years old, you can walk. Besides, we are almost back to the car.”
“I know you could carry me if you wanted to. What if there was a fire? Would you want me to burn up?! Wouldn’t you want to save me?!”
“Ok, yes, if there was a fire, then I would probably grab you and run.”
“Well, then just pretend there is a fire and pick me up!”

Based upon those 6 steps I came up with my own way of recognizing the difference between good mothers and bad mothers.

A good mother tells you that you cannot have a flamethrower for your birthday. A bad mother tells you she would have gotten you one--but they weren’t on sale.

A good mother takes you on outings and reminds you to be careful so that no one gets hurt. A bad mother barks, “Knock that off or you could get somebody killed.”

A good mother tells you to use your best manners and to be considerate of other people. A bad mother tells you that if you talk with a mouth full of food one more time she is going to force you to watch something that you don’t want to see, like the Lifetime movie marathon on a Saturday afternoon.

A good mother wants you to get into the best schools, win awards and be the most popular kid in school. A bad mother just wants you to survive childhood and not grow up to be a criminal.

Because of my own observations, and the article I read, guess which category I fell into (and which one I didn't)? My husband said I didn’t need six steps to be a “perfect mother” and he told me there is no such thing anyway (well, except for his mother, of course) and all anyone can do is their best. He must have been reading that article on “How to be the perfect Husband.”

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