If you are not a fan of Prairie Home Companion you won’t get the reference, if you are then the famous lines are already running through your head: where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children above average. I don’t live in the fictional Lake Wobegone, because it is fictional, but sometimes, oftentimes it feels that way. Only I feel like the outsider and that I moved to the wrong place – because I’m not perfect, my life isn’t perfect, my kids aren’t perfect and I am pretty sure I am the only one.
I have been wondering lately if it is just me, as in I just feel overly critical about myself, or if it is a social phenomenon this global perfection. Having only lived in the time period I live in and the place I live in, I have no idea if it has always been like this (by which I mean uber competitive) or if it is unique to our time and space. Unique or not it is a feeling that is leaving me more and more isolated emotionally and that makes me sad.
I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on whether this is fundamentally jealousy and not to be braggy or anything but I don’t think it is. I love my life, I love my family and my children and I think they are wonderful – but they are not perfect, life is not thornless roses and rainbows everyday. It’s messy and sloppy and confusing and hard and what I really want is to hear that I’m not alone, because otherwise I think I must be doing something wrong and when it comes to caring for and supporting people I love I want to do what is right for them.
When my children were small they would fight with each other. My daughter – the older child – would say mean things to her little brother, and she would do mean things to him. Not all the time, but sometimes, and not because she is a sociopath, but it seemed to me it was because she was older and all of a sudden had to share attention and he was there and followed her around unconditionally. So she tested boundaries. But when I would talk to other parents in the kindergarten about the fighting I would hear things like, “oh my children never fight, they adore each other,” or “you should talk to them about that, they shouldn’t be fighting that’s not normal,” or “hmmm maybe there is just a lot of stress in your house and they are acting out.” Maybe all of those things were true and I was failing as a mother. My husband said, “relax all kids fight.” I resigned myself to having failed them without understanding how.
As they grew mine seemed to be the only children who did not excel at every sport from day one, or drama or music or rock-climbing or friend making or whatever it was. Reports on the playground were that life outside my house was conflict free, smooth sailing toward all goals, and laden with superior achievement. I’ve yet to meet another parent who’s child doesn’t consistently do all of their homework, without reminders, and who get’s anything less that A’s. Or whose child is not good at something they do, or without defined direction for the rest of their life. I’ve also never met a parent who fights with their children, ever.
I know I sound bitter, I can hear it in the way I read the words in my head. But it isn’t bitter, it’s defeated and lonely and scared that I have done something wrong because I must have done something wrong if everyone else is immune from these challenges, and I want to do what is right for my kids. They deserve that, they are wonderful people. I don’t wish your kids and your family less than perfect, I just want to know what the secret is so I can get it too. And please don’t say, “well not everyone is a great [fill in the bank with attribute],” because I talk to the other parents and I can safely say yes, everyone else out there is a great, perfect, flawless whatever because that is what you have said!
Parenting really is the hardest thing I have ever done, I suppose it will continue to be the hardest thing I do since the role of the parent is constantly changing. I struggle with this job, with what I’m doing everyday – anyone else out there, anywhere who comes with flaws and bumps and bruises want to grab a drink and talk about it? I think we need each other.