There are 1,440 minutes in a day. A consecutive series of sixty seconds that add up to 24-hours of opportunity. I think anyone would agree it is unrealistic to expect perfection for thousands of minutes a week.
Yet, that is what parents do.
We spend many of those minutes second-guessing choices, answers and reactions as parenthood is where self-flagellation dwells. It is natural for parents to focus on what could have been done differently or better rather than on the moments that were just right.
The minute a child comes into your heart, that internal barometer kicks in ensuring that you will be your own worst critic until the end of time. This monumental task of guiding humans through the early stages of life is only heightened with the addition of societal pressure. It is a complicated cocktail of doubt and insecurity mixed with the best intentions that makes us our own biggest obstacle in the parenting journey.
I remember long nights spent in our nursery, letting the rhythm of the glider’s motion soothe my son while it had little effect on my overactive mind. In those early days, the stakes of motherhood seemed impossibly high and my confidence extremely low.
Thus, with the moon as my only witness, I whispered a vow to be the light in his darkness and the steward of his care to the best of my abilities.
After all, a promise is all that we have to offer. There are no guarantees in the paradox that is parenting. Bad things happen to good parents. Kids thrive despite less than stellar guidance. No crystal ball is among the myriad birthing paraphernalia provided in the maternity ward. We are sent on our way equipped with gut instincts and newborn diapers.
And it is instinct that is our saving grace. When we silence the doubts and trust in ourselves we are emboldened to become the parent we were meant to be. The version that our children see. If we channel their belief in us, we will find the imperfections of parenting are perfectly acceptable.
Our children teach us how to parent and no two require exactly the same method. The answer lies in listening to our gut and following the cues our kids offer. Most of those cues reveal that they are not flawless and don’t expect anything near perfection from us either. They don’t even know what perfection is, really, no one does.
Because perfection does not exist.
A child’s life –from walking, to school, to navigating social settings and siblings–is chock full of failures that lead to some version of success. Watching parents falter should not be alarming but rather a part of the parent-child emotional evolution.
By saying we are sorry or admitting a mistake, we are not failing as parents. We are winning at being role models and good humans. In the end, that is really what parenting is…being the example you want your kids to emulate.
The good news? The clock turns over every day offering 1,440 new moments to get it right. Or somewhere close.
These years of shepherding our children go by so quickly, it would be a shame to waste even one of those minutes focused on the folly of perfection.
This post originally appeared here, published with permission.