The fewer the words, the better the prayer.

~ Martin Luther ~

When You’re A Parental Failure

September 21st, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 3 mins, 33 secs

Oh look! Here's something else to feel parental guilt about.

Oh look! Here’s something else to feel parental guilt about.

Face it, you’re a failure. Yep. The kids are growing up rotten. You have not done a good enough job and so now you ought to give yourself a jolly harsh whipping for it.

How many mothers feel like this? I’m not sure, but it feels like a very big number indeed.

You see, mothers do guilt  incredibly well. And it seems that they always have so much to feel guilty about.

Consider the child who won’t do as she is told (surely that has to be a mother’s fault). Like when your kid gets a reputation for pinching and biting (“Stand back everyone! We’ve got a biter!”). You know who is responsible for that little catastrophe, don’t you?

Even if your children are doing brilliantly well, there will always be the nagging suspicion that we could have done better. So no matter what, there is always room for parental guilt.

By the time your offspring have reached puberty a great many kids will have misread the program and assumed it was time for publicity (namely, theirs). This means all those horrible habits and behaviors you were sure (well, hoped) they wouldn’t get up to are now hitting the local headlines. And guess what? They are all your fault.

At least, that’s how it feels. There is ample time to wallow in parental failure. Though you quickly notice  there are precious few parents who want to hear about it from you. After all, it could be infectious. So forget about mentioning it to most other parents. They’ll just look at you aghast like you’ve declared you won first prize for having the most ever flatulence in an elevator competition.

Yes, these are some of the hidden “joys” of parenting that the “How to Hot House Your Child and Run Your Life Like Clockwork” books fail to cover. Face it, you’re a miserable mother who deserves to be put into stocks and made fun of

Not that anyone will say that to your face, exactly. But you can tell that’s what they are thinking  when you come to some parent function and you hear muffled whispers of, “Shhh! She’s coming!”

But consider this. There are no perfect parents. None. Nor is there one spick-and-span 100-point manual to tell you exactly what to do with your growing brood. At times, we simply have to hang on and do the best we can, praying that that’s going to be good enough.

Scientifically minded parents will reel with horror at this suggestion. After all, surely each child came with a hardback manual don’t they?

Well, no.. Each kid comes without instructions. You face the daunting task of parenting, despite not really knowing precisely what to do. Yet, as dicey as it seems, billions of people found it worked out okay. So the basics of homemade parenting must be better than we think.

Naturally, I would want us all to be especially patient, loving, and wise in all matters of raising each child. However, it doesn’t work out quite that neatly and, come to think of it, nor should it.

We make mistakes, get tired, forget we are meant to be grown ups, and occasionally do stupid things. Happily, kids grow up anyway.

Stuff will go wrong, that’s certain. But feeding the guilt trip is never going to help anyone (not you or your children).

What they and we need is acceptance, open displays of love and affection, and plenty of practical care. After that, most things are optional.

Though that’s hard to face, there’s no need to assume you have to be perfect, infallible, or otherwise saintly. You merely need to work at being your good self and accept that the parenting journey is a bumpy ride.

Guilt won’t help and can only hurt you, them, and anyone else standing in range. So practice letting guilt go and do something affirming with your kids right now. It’s never too late to show kindness. Nor is it necessary to expect your kids to be anymore perfect than anyone else.

Children and adolescents will do all sorts of things that will make your hair curl, leave you trout-mouthed, get your blood boiling, and generally get you reaching for the smelling salts. That’s life, and a natural aspect of having a family. Which is to say it’s generally not the “end of the world”, no matter how tough the situation.

Rather than look at yourself with any sense of failure when your dear son has happily dismantled your neighbor’s car in the driveway and doesn’t know how to put it back together, realize that part of the parenting brief is to hold on with love. Not to smother our kids, or cocoon them in niceness. But to guide them with an open heart, and a listening ear. Knowing none of us are perfect, parenting teaches us that the most we can do is to aim to give of our best. Ultimately that just has to be enough and, thankfully, it usually is.

Failure City

Feel The Fear And Fail Anyway

Stories You Tell Yourself 


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