Like many fresh-off-the-birthing-bed Type A American women, 21 years ago or so I threw myself into doing everything I could to be A Great Parent. By god, I was not going to mess this up, no way! I was going to correct everything I thought my parents did wrong, then raise that bar so high that there would be no chance of me making any mistakes, and I would produce in the end, completely well-adjusted, sparkling, and productive American spawnage.


What a maroon. What a putz. What a ding-dong! In imagining that I had all the control over how my kids would end up, I made a common and ultimately self-defeating mistake. I failed right off the bat by thinking that I could enrich, protect, nurture, discipline, and love them so much that they themselves would not make any mistakes, which is the most ridiculous expectation ever. It just took me a really long time to put a name on all of this -- the nasty perfectionism beast rearing up again -- and then make the changes I needed to in my mind to set things on a more realistic and compassionate course. I had to cut myself a break or order to cut them a break. 

I've not gotten rid of the bar, but I far, far more appreciate that each person from the start has to sometimes walk through a little fire -- or a lot -- to learn and grow. My children are completely separate, different people, with different developmental timeframes, different talents and weaknesses, sometimes very different from my own. I try to spend more time celebrating what is wonderful about them now than worrying so much over what they are not, or are not yet. All of them are robustly healthy and empathetic people. I feel sad that I ever thought that wasn't enough.