The Courage to Quit
I’m calling it quits. Throwing in the towel. Raising the white flag. My name is Miki, and I’m not a perfect mother. For the last seven years, since my darling daughter took her very first breath and screamed her very first scream, I've been trying to get it right. I've read all the books and followed all the programs. When she didn’t even remotely slightly perhaps maybe consider possibly sleeping until she was 13 months old, I thought it was my fault. A failing in myself as a parent. And proof that I was doing it all wrong, completely incapable. Once she finally started sleeping, other “issues” arose—the whole list of things young people do to test boundaries, assert independence, learn, explore, and grow. She lived, and still lives, life to the ninth degree, with her whole being, full throttle and out loud. In my desire to do the very best I could for her (and for my son who came two and a half years later), I strove to be the perfect mom and raise the perfect children. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering what other people must be thinking about us while watching our actions with their eyes. And I bought into the story that because she was not always compliant, quiet, and calm, that I was a bad Mom. And then I noticed, with the wonderful irony of the universe’s sense of humor, that the very things I was doing in my attempts to be perfect were actually pushing me further and further away from my children. Because I was looking at everything through such a critical lens—wondering how we were measuring up, always falling short—I couldn't see those tiny beings who I love so much. So I’m summoning my courage and stepping off the merry-go-round. I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. Their definition of perfect is toxic. It does not match me, my family, or what we want out of life. I get to define for myself, what “perfect” looks like for us. First, I want them to know that I always love them no matter what. This is the prime directive, the one that steers the ship. Second, I want to keep my big mouth shut. I continuously practice biting my tongue against the constant stream of criticism, corrections, and “teachable moments.” I’m putting my trust in them to figure it out on their own, or learn to ask for help when they need it. Hearing my voice in their heads as a critical one undermines the prime directive. I hope that as I continue to practice, our focus will shift evermore to the positive. And third, I want them to feel seen by me. To have an uninterrupted span of connection and attention every day. Right now that means playing Harry Potter and Iron Man. As they change and grow, I imagine that what this looks like will change and grow with them. And that’s it. Just these three things. And I am trusting that everything else that is my job as a mom will fall into place around this vision. This feels courageous to me because now I know what I’m working towards. I have my own compass to guide my decisions and my behavior. I am not a slave to an unknown, ever changing, unspecified list of goods and bads, of some indefinable and unattainable perfection. In creating my own definition, I am free. And I’m claiming the courage to declare that, while I may not be perfect in anyone else’s eyes, I am the perfect mom for my kids.
Image Credit: Miki DeVivo