Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How To Raise Perfect Children

Step 1: Do NOT look at me!  You won’t find any answers here.  I am not raising any perfect children.  I do not want to raise any perfect children.  I do not have any perfect children.  I’m just an imperfect mother raising imperfect children. 

The political fiend that I am, I liken child-rearing to the strategies of the last three presidents.

1)     Dive in, sacrifice everything and everyone else and still make colossal mistakes.
2)     Realize you are in over your head, say screw it and let the chips fall where they may.
3)     Do your best, but still focus on pertinent relationships; learn from your mistakes and move on.

If you have to ask, it’s Clinton, Bush and Obama, in that order!

I was the last of my sisters to become a mother, and none of them had the decency to tell me that this was going to be the most challenging feat I was about to encounter.  And of course, being the youngest, I just assumed, “If they can do it, I can it do it too.”  Being the youngest, I naturally thought that I’m going to do it better because I would have learned their strengths and weaknesses. 

Well, somebody sure knocked some reality into me.  And now that I’m a mother I know for sure that if my mother had just let us be, she could have saved herself years of stress.

Of course every parent has deal breakers.  For me, education, respect, good manners, proper hygiene and chores top the list.  Any child of mine needs to get those in check in order for us to have a harmonious home life.  I try not to make a big deal about the rest of the stuff that annoy and irritate me sometimes because at the end of the day, I cannot change anyone’s DNA.  Sure some lashes on somebody’s butt will make me feel good for a while, if nothing else is working, but seriously, how many times can you beat somebody for the same infraction?

The reason why parenting is the hardest job is because it’s a lifetime investment. The average parent doesn’t separate her emotions when the child turns 18, gets married or even dies.  Most jobs last until retirement.  Many marriages end in divorce.  Bringing a child into this world is FOREVER.

Look, my biggest priority in life is to be happy.  And yeah it’s broad, but if I can just instill that in my children, I think my mission as a mother would be accomplished.  I can only do my best, the rest is pretty much up to them.  And to get to that, I try as much as I can to be myself and allow the children to do the same.

But back to the topic at hand.

What is perfect anyway?  It’s way too subjective.  I don’t want them to go to the perfect schools. I don’t want them to marry the perfect mates. I don’t want them to have perfect children.

My husband and his family got stuck with me.  Why on earth would I put that much pressure on my children to find the perfect mate when they will be happy with the perfect mate for them?  It’s also up to them to attend the perfect school for them and have the perfect job for them.

Actually now that I have your attention, I just want to drop a few lines about the joys of motherhood 21st Century style.

Obviously, I’m not done raising my children, but so far I have a few pointers on now to raise children guilt free.  Now before I start, a word of caution:  Everyone will not agree with me.  In fact, some of you will totally feel compelled to give me a piece of your mind, but what the heck.

When they get on your nerves, and you have tried everything possible under the sun to be patient and kind, do not feel badly if you forget that they are not your shipmates and utter a few choice words.  And those of you who are thinking, "Why can’t she say dagnabbit instead of bad words?", just remember that most things are easier said than done.  Plus even if I had enough patience to remember to say dabnabbit, I would be laughing so much that who would take me seriously.

Do you remember that clip from one of Bill Cosby’s acts when he showed how his wife’s face contorted as she dealt with the kids?  What the good doctor neglected to mention was that Mrs. Cosby wasn’t always the elegant, sophisticated lady we see in public.  I mean, do you honestly believe she never dropped the F bomb when dealing with those five kids?  Ever??

People on the outside looking in always seem to think that they have the answer.  Just the other day, my youngest, the source of my gray hair and stress stated that his kids are going to be well disciplined.  Are you kidding me!!!  It’s not that easy, Buddy, and I have come to the realization that one way to get out of this alive is to not take it so seriously.

When you find yourself at their chorus or band recital or musical and you try your best to stay awake and it’s not always possible, don’t feel guilty.  Let’s face it…..Mozart they are not!

So what if I’m at a recital and I’m the only mother who cannot wait for the torture to end.  It’s not that I don’t support my children.  It’s not that I’m a bad mother.  It’s just that if I have to hear someone blows the incorrect chord on a trumpet one more time, I’m gonna scream.  I mean, these kids knew from day one that they would be having a concert.  Would it kill them to practice a little bit more so they can do their best?  And I know that they WILL get a standing ovation regardless of how they sound.  After all in these days, just showing up counts as much as really showing up to work.

And am I really that harsh for thinking that if a kid throws or kicks away a ball one more time during a game that his mother should just be quiet instead of saying GOOD TRY, BILLY.  A good try is when Billy hits the baseball but somebody catches it.  It’s when Billy kicks the ball but the goalie stops it.  It’s when Billy aims for the basket but somebody blocks him.  A good try cannot be Billy at the base and holding the bat and is struck out without him even trying.

People say kids learn from example and will do what you do and say what you say.  I beg to differ.  I pick stuff from off the floor that I didn’t drop.  I clean the house without being asked.  I cook and do the laundry.  I read.  My kids don’t always follow my lead. 

But I refuse to yearn for perfection when it is elusive.  So what if my youngest has a bad temper, so what if my oldest knows every button to push with his siblings, so what if my daughter can strike a sneak attack on her brothers.  These are just issues I have to deal with, talk about and monitor.

If I were “blessed” with quiet, perfect children, I would be the one going through the terrible twos.  Yeah, TWO decades of climbing the walls and pulling my hair out.  I don’t want a boring house.  I want a house with kids a bit on edge.  A house with kids a little crazy sometimes, a little loud sometimes.

I want kids that are perfectly healthy and perfectly happy.  Because perspectively speaking the last thing I want is to pray for normal when my “perfect” kids have weirded out on me.


  1. Isn't it funny how we all say, "nothing or no one is perfect"? But that word "perfect" always seem to find a way into our conversations:)

    To me, the "perfect" child is the one who not only listens to you, but also questions you; challenges you in a positive way. I believe that that interaction between parent and child, between child and siblings, helps each one to grow and to learn. And listen doesn't mean obey. Oh no! It's not a guarantee that your child will do what you say, when you say. But, by challenging you, you the parent get to appreciate how your child’s mind work, how they use logic and even how they apply what they have learnt from you and their friends in their daily lives.

    That last child that's giving you gray hairs; you learned something from that child. What? You said it, "don't take things so seriously". So, you see, learning goes both ways. Remember, you're never too old to learn:)

    The only return on a lifetime investment that parents can hope for is that their child or children grow up to become better, perhaps perfect, human beings.

  2. The phrase: "practice makes perfect" was conformed when one of my choral directors said: "perfect practice makes perfect." (I know we're avoiding the topic of having perfect kids but the recital/baseball game struck a nerve.) I agree with you that nothing irks me more than the "Good try Billy!" or "You guys sounded great tonight!" when clearly we were not witnessing the same sloppy concert or the complete strike out! My whole thing is if you're going to raise children (parental or within a community), raise them with an expectation of thrive and greatness. How can you say to 6 yr old Billy "Good job on the cello" when he doesn't practice and is up there hitting too many wrong notes? Or when he does practice, he does so for an hour but is wasting time doing everything other than actually practicing so that he can learn precision and accuracy? One thing we do have to stop doing is telling kids "Good job" because when they hit middle school->high school->college->grad school->real world, "Good job"'s don't come easy. Without effort, you don't get "Good job" but instead you get "This is your last warning." We say, "well they're just kids!" But when do you transition to telling the truth? Smh! Good post as usual

  3. Agreed wit the comment above as a preschool teacher...i don't praise my children even if the do good... something I think am the meanest teacher out there.. watching them struggle with a cap or trying to open a package and not lending a hand even if they ask, i have to see them make a Great effort before I help... GREAT POST!!