Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Good Parent

Do you ever wonder if your parents did a good job? Parenting, I mean. Now that you're an adult, a parent yourself, do you ever look back, at your childhood as a whole, not just pieces or incidents, but transposing yourself as an educated observer, and examine how you were raised and how (if you support the nurture vs. nature argument) the way you were raised affected, affects you as a person, a parent, a partner?

God! Such a huge question for a Sunday morning! But as I find myself in my personal confessional (the ever anonymous and shriving blogosphere) it feels right to ask.

I have, so far, raised three nose-picking-bum-scratching-screeching-whiny people to adulthood. Two of them are off, away, experimenting with who they are and who they want to be, and lurching toward autonomy. And one of them, my small sweet middle child, my own Mikey, is bursting at the seams to join them. She's counting down the months until she can escape her mother's clutches (and continual harping about doing the dishes and picking up her shoes).

I've always smugly congratulated myself on what lovely people I created. How my hard work and investment in them is paying off with people who care about others, have a voice, and choose lives that make them happy. But last night, when all was quiet, and I went searching for a book to read to my 6 year old, I found something else instead, I found an old diary. And yes, shockingly, I broke the cardinal rule of parenting: I read it.

Actually, I only read some of it, a few paragraphs here and there, but enough to know that the glorious, near angelic mother-image I had created in my brain, is, frankly, rather tarnished.

After a solid 15 minutes of utter, miserable self-indulgence I began to wonder about my parenting. To wonder what my actions and inactions have really done to affect my kids. To wonder how I might have lifted them up, and how I might have hobbled them. I know I'm human. I won't ever be perfect, but mostly I go blithely through my days and weeks and years as a mother thinking and believing that I'm doing a good job. I never (or very rarely) take my parenting out and look at it, thoroughly. Perhaps it's too dangerous to look that closely, it might result in spontaneous combustion, or maybe it's just easier to tell myself I'm doing the best I possibly can, patting myself on the back, and then firmly assisting the little blighters out of the nest as soon as is socially acceptable.

So I'm left with the big question, dangling over my head, like a finely honed guillotine (rather than the finely honed halo I'd imagined)--Am I a Good Parent?

The only way I can think to begin to answer this question is go to the source of all wisdom, the modern day guru on the mountain, the Library of Everything: I will consult the Internet.

Let me tell you--and please my friends, I beg you, implore you, heed this advice--don't Google "How to be a good parent." Just don't do it. There are more than 50 pages of links (I stopped looking after page 57, but I suspect it goes on indefinitely) of everything from What's The Secret to Being a Good Parent by William Shatner, no less, to The 10 Commandments for Good Parenting, to How to be a Good Parent to Young Cricketers. Yikes. Who knew I had to even consider what type of cricketing parent I was?

Some sites recommend a return to traditional "authoritative" parenting--firm boundaries, physical closeness (such as extended breastfeeding), and high expectations (think 1950s dad). Some sites recommend traditional, biblically sanctioned parenting (or in other words), spare the rod, spoil the child (think 1650s dad).

Other sites recommend attachment parenting, which suggests that if your baby wants it, your baby gets it, regardless of your need to sleep, pee, take a shower, drink a bottle of wine, or have sex with your husband (think 1050s mom--no wet nurse for you!)

And the list, advice, suggestions, thoughts, insights, scientific studies, religious arguments, and seditious suggestions go on and on and on.

Thus, my friends, after hours of research, reading, weighing this advice against that, and learning more about what makes a good cricketing parent than I ever hoped to, or thought I'd know, I feel compelled to reduce the chatter. I feel moved to create a simple, 5 question quiz for you to discern whether you qualify as a Good Parent. So here goes:

  1. Do you love your children?
  2. Do you tell them and show them you love them?
  3. Do you do what you can to keep them safe and teach them to keep themselves safe?
  4. Do you go to bed at night knowing that you might have screwed up a few times during the day, but that you did your best by them and yourself (a little insight is the key import here)? 
  5. Do you find a way to love yourself, even a little, and forgive your parenting muck-ups? (nothing better than some good modelling to teach 'do what I do', right)?

Well? How'd ya do? Pretty good, I'd bet. And so did I.

So, I'm not perfect. I'm flawed actually, burnished to a high gloss patina, in fact. But I love my kids and I want them to have a life filled with glorious adventures,  high highs (not too high, and low lows, but not too low), and the good sense to be themselves and know their entirely fallible mother loves them.

Some would say it's not enough, that I'm failing my kids, that I'm failing as a parent. But screw 'em. Here I make a nod to my own mother's parenting wisdom, "If ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise." Just good solid advice.

That and, "Dani, for Christ's sake, stay off that InterWeb, it's nothing but trouble!"

Love ya Mom!


  1. Beautifully said Dani. xoDale

  2. You are a genius and I love this blog.... thank-you for making me feel better X

  3. Wow Abby. I'm not sure I can live up to genius. But I'll take making you feel better! Thanks.