The joys of imperfect parenting

My husband and I are good parents. Regardless of what the latest measure of success might be.
To be honest, I am sick to death of those thinly masked braggarts who claim, in the same breath...they only want their kids to be happy...and how proud they are at their latest accomplishment. Which is it?
Happiness?
Or Success?


For a long time I tried to quell that evil green monster inside. At least I thought that's what it was. I would always be annoyed when I'd hear from someone, be it relative or friend, that I hadn't heard from in eons... because they wanted to share their news. Little Joey got into Harvard. Little Prissy is on her way to Julliard. Little Buffy got a perfect 2400 on her SAT's. And Maximillian was offered a 6-figure job with only his Bachelors.


Such successful children. How can that have happened? Aren't these the same kids who, as teenagers, swore like sailors, wore nose rings, tattoos in unmentionable places, had DUI's and went missing for days on end? And yet in the end, look how they turned out. Now that is just a slap in the face. Where is my righteous "I told you so" moment?


And then I think, I shouldn't be jealous. So what if my kids aren't yet setting the world on fire. They're young. Give them time. Then again, maybe they never will. But it irked me to think that with all the grief those astounding prodigious kids caused, I couldn't have that one little payback moment where I get to think mine were better than theirs.


I realize now, I never needed it. And that little green monster? Didn't exist. That was just annoyance at their arrogance. My frustration with those who are so free with the advice. They need to get an internship with the right company or they won't be successful. They need to get higher test scores or they won't get into the best schools. They need to set goals for themselves. And so on.


Mostly it was my dislike that in reality, those were not proud parents wanting to share their joy, rather they had a need to stomp on mine. For they knew what I didn't. That I have always loved my kids for who they were. Beautiful sweet kids who had occasional bouts of temper, but all in all, inside and out, they are wonderful girls. They may not make the headlines for raising the most money to plant a tree in a park in Alaska, but they hold the door for the little old lady behind them.


They may not become billionaires by the time they are 30 and hit the cover of Forbes. But they will drop their last penny in the Salvation Army bucket.


They may forget to send a thank you note every so often, but they would never in a million years take advantage of someone else's goodwill.


There is one thing, though, my girls have that I will bet so many of those others don't. Unconditional parental love. We're not perfect, hubby and I. And yes, we have our moments! We tell them to clean their room, change that shirt, study harder and yes, we tell them to be home by midnight. Or sooner. And they can only dye their hair in Photoshop. Or PicNik. Till they're 21. To which they respond 18. And I say 21. 18. 21. And so it goes.


We set boundaries. We don't indulge them. Probably because we can't afford to, though even if we could I doubt we would. We are proud when they do well in school, and share their frustration when they don't. Through it all, we accept them for who they are. We love them for who they are. We remember, every day, they are their own person. Not mini-me's. Which in the end, means we accept ourselves, warts, limitations, and all. Kids are not our second chance to get it right. That's all on us. Who they are and what they do with their lives is purely for them.


So ask yourselves. How often do your kids smile? Not because of a gift. Or a funny TV show. Or an inside joke. Or because you're taking them to Disney World. How often do your kids smile simply because they are having a good day? Or simply because you smiled at them.. That is the measure of success. Small moments when you say "pass the salt" and your daughter smiles knowingly and says "pass the salt...please?" and you know. Right then. Whatever else may come in your life, you have done something wonderful. You have helped create a relatively happy human being.


And there's only one way to get that done. Whether you are parenting your own kids, or someone else's...
Just be there.
When they scrape their knee.
Or climb a tree. (Ok, so I'm not Dr. Seuss my daughter says.)
Get bullied on the bus.
Pass their road test.
Get rejected by their first choice.
Get accepted by their third.
Get their heart broken.
Finally find the one. Even if it wouldn't quite be your choice.
Just. Be. There.

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