ALERT!!! – PARENTING DOESN’T TAKE PERFECTION
Today, I thought I would tell you a little about myself and my approach to parenting. My son Evan is a happy, funny, smart, well-rounded, and sweet second grader. I have had primary custody of him since he was fourteen months old. His mom is great and is very involved in his life but she lives in another state which means he is with me 90% of the time – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I cherish each second with him and we have an awesome relationship. But it has not always been easy to navigate the single parent waters, especially as a single dad.
I will admit that I have had many times in the past six years when I felt lost, clueless, and helpless. There were moments when I had no idea how to handle a situation or how to raise a child. I would talk to my friends, talk to his mom, talk to my mom, talk to myself, and read countless articles and pieces of online advice looking for answers. Sometimes I found answers but, more often than not, I simply figured it out as I went along.
I made mistakes. A lot of mistakes. In the last few years my son has (on many occasions) missed breakfast (and lunch, and dinner), stayed up way too late on school nights, not done his homework, spilled all kinds of food and drinks all over the house (and himself), spent too much time with my iPad, spent too much time with YouTube and Good Mythical Morning, pooped on the floor because he thought it was funny (he is a boy after all), uttered inappropriate words (at inappropriate times), not brushed his teeth, not taken a bath, not picked up his toys, not followed the rules, and the list goes on and on.
And guess what? It’s all good. Through all of that, we have bonded. We have laughed, cried, smiled, played, learned, and become one heck of a team. We call ourselves “Youngblood Men” and we always say that “Youngblood Men can handle anything!” That is what we do, we handle anything and everything – together.
I am not the perfect parent but I am perfect at one thing. Giving 100% to my son. I don’t mean in time or energy or material things. What I mean is in heart, dedication, and effort. My son doesn’t care if I screw up. All he cares about is that I am there for him, that I love him, cherish him, take care of him, and have his back. And trust me, at the end of the day, that is all your child cares about as well. They just want you to be present.
I very rarely get upset at my son. Mainly because he doesn’t get mad at me for not being the perfect dad so how can I get mad at him for not being the perfect child? (But of course he is the perfect child in my eyes – just as your child is in your eyes!) I let him be a kid and find his way and he lets me be a parent and find my way. Neither one of us have it all figured out yet but we are learning and we are doing it together.
I am very lucky and thankful that I truly do have great son and I often get asked how do I do it? What do I do to get him to be such a decent, respectful, and all around good boy? Most of the time I give the same answer… “Be more easy going with your child and yourself. Be ok with not being perfect and be ok with making mistakes.” Really pretty simple.
That is my advice to you as well. You are not perfect – and that is perfectly fine! Don’t be so hard on yourself. The media, your peers, your neighbors, and perceived ideas of “perfect” parenting give us parents a lot of anxiety and stress. We all feel like we have to make the right decision, and do the right thing, 100% of the time. The truth is that simply isn’t possible and being perfect as a parent is utterly impossible.
It doesn’t matter what your parenting situation might be – single, divorced, separated, full custody, shared custody, sole parent. Whatever the case may be, the advice is the same. Just be involved and give your child the effort. Be kind, supportive, loving, and human. Laugh at your mistakes, laugh at their mistakes, and take one day at a time. Learn as you go and learn with your child. Some of your best times, and favorite memories, will come from moments when you have screwed up together!
You are not perfect and, at the end of the day, your child is perfectly OK with that. You should be as well.