Why being imperfect makes us the perfect parents

I kicked myself this morning when I realised that the effort I’d taken to dig out a ‘black outfit’ (Kylo Ren) from our fancy-dress stash for my eldest’s school assembly had been in vain. I’d got the outfit out, but not managed to get it into his bag. My excuse was that I was simultaneously helping his younger brother make a jet pack for his friend – so much for our ability to multi-task.

I was annoyed that I’d tried and failed – more irritating than if I’d not tried at all. Perhaps it’s what Tiffany Dufu, author of ‘Drop the Ball’, means when she refers to the need to ‘drop the ball more strategically’. Hmmm… Despite my efforts, he still didn’t have the outfit at school.  Not only that, but I’d told him it was in his bag – proof that it’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings. I’d not only forgotten it, but also inadvertently confused things by telling him an untruth.

There were a few possible scenarios: (1) he’d think he’d lost it at school; (2) he’d think someone else has wandered off with it; or (3) he’d think I made a mistake and not put it in like I said I would.  There’s the problem.  Even though the first two options are pretty improbable with a zipped-up bag, he’s more likely to consider those by way of explanation than option (3). In general, I’m too reliable for him to consider that as a possibility.  Whilst I may pride myself in ‘always remembering’, I’m doing him a disservice as he’s not exposed to life’s lessons: we all forget sometimes, just as we all make mistakes, bad judgements and so on – but that doesn’t stop the world going round.

I also see the hole I dig for myself when I take the boys swimming.  They have their lessons one after the other, so have to wait and watch each other when it’s not their turn.  I take a feast for them to munch through, a variety of books and ‘stuff’ to entertain (resulting in so many bags that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going).  If I don’t provide the ‘full service’, then they are grumpy and hard work.  My husband however travels light.  He doesn’t think asking them to sit for 30 minutes should require a rolling buffet. As they’ve not come to expect it from him, they don’t declare they are about to “die of hunger”, or that “it’s soooo boring”.  They just get on with it.

As for the assembly outfit, I bet forgetting it bothers me more than it will him. It’s just made me see the trap that I’ve built for myself – which is even more ironic given that I use the same logic to reassure myself when we have to miss some school events.  I tell myself that the silver lining is that our kids see us working hard and will learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

Although I have the nagging annoyance that I didn’t make the grade this morning, all is not lost.  The outfit can be taken in tomorrow, as the assembly is not until later in the week. Even if I struggle to see it this way, when I get things wrong I may be helping him more than when I get them right. Now that he’s seven, he’s old enough to see that the world is not always stable, predictable and that his parents aren’t infallible.  He’s no longer a baby whose security depends on the reliability of the adults around him.  We all make mistakes. He may at times be told things which later turn out to be untrue. All the very minor disappointments (like forgetting to put a snack, or the outfit in his bag), gently reveal that people and the world aren’t perfect – and yet the world still goes on turning.

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