Short Words and Full Hugs: Musings on Being the Parent I Want to Be

None of us can be our best all the time. By definition, it wouldn't be our best then. Plus there is this amazing thing called life that happens all around us and in us and through us at all hours, and you find yourself tired, cranky, or overwhelmed. Our children are little people, so very human, and they learn rather quickly how to read us and push us to our edges. It's reassuring to them that the love is still there, even after that.

Excerpts from Gwen's Yellowstone/Grand Tetons travel journal.

It's less reassuring to us who often look back at our reactions and see all the ways that we could have done it better. But after all, we are only human as well, and try as some of us might, perfection isn't actually an attainable human goal. 

Maybe it's even harder to look at those moments when you do it so well. I can clearly see the laughter, the hugs, the love; it's very easy to see how short I've fallen when I know how much better I can do.

But the focus should be this: there is so damn much love. So many hugs. So much laughter and fun and happiness. Amazing memories, learning opportunities, and just plain simple happy times.
A reminder of the memories we are making together...

Lately I have frequently fallen short of my hopes and expectations for myself - both personally and as a parent. I think of fights and too short replies. There aren't enough hours in the day for all I want to accomplish, and the impatience gets taken out on those we love whether they have any control over that or not. 

I'd written a few weeks back about how I'm struggling, and even just writing that allowed me time and space to acknowledge where these responses are really emerging from, what they really mean. It doesn't mean I've been able to change them overnight, but at least I can be more self aware.

And how much we like each other, even when we get on each others nerves.

The smart Bunmi Laditan wrote something recently, a whole lovely post about not cutting your child on your own jagged edges. The whole thing was just so perfectly stated (seriously, give it a read), but one thing in particular: our anger is normally a flimsy cover for some deeper, scarier emotions. So I've been trying to dig deeper when that emotion rises up and over me in those hard moments, and see what its really all about.

Often its about failure, and my fear of it. About failing as a parent, about failing Gwen in some way, of not preparing her for the sometimes hard world that she's a part of. And when I identify it that way, I can take the step back I need. I can remind myself that I'm not a failure, that Gwen is an extraordinary girl worth being proud of, and that we have a long time together to continue to prepare her.

We can only do our best to learn from ourselves. To look at where we struggled and try harder the next time we are in that situation. This time there might have been short words, but next time maybe we can respond with some long hugs instead.

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~ Meegs