Thursday, 20 December 2012

Perfect parenting

We all know that perfection is unattainable. Right? Then why are so many of us perfectionists? 

Perfectionism crops up in various areas of my life. For a long time I let it stop me from doing what I desperately wanted to do, until I made a conscious effort to do it anyway. It was scary, because I really didn't want it to be crap. I'm still not convinced it wasn't. That's not the point. I had to reject a long-held belief that unless I could do something perfectly, it wasn't worth doing.

Before M was born, I had a special daydream. I was holding my smiling, beatific baby, and we were dancing together in his/her nursery as the sunlight streamed through the window. The song playing was something by Ronan Keating. I can't remember which one. Something about rollercoasters. This was my picture of impending motherhood. It was going to be magnificent and full of cuddles and the joy of togetherness.

If you're a reader of my blog, you may know that the reality was somewhat different. It still is somewhat different. There is laughter but there is also a fair bit of crying. I get cross a lot. Mainly, I suppose, because I want my toddler to behave like a grown up. I want him to appreciate everything I work so hard to do for him. Things I try to do perfectly. When he makes a mess, my first thought is, "I've just washed / tidied / arranged that nicely". When he gets frustrated that I'm giving something or someone else my attention, I think, "Can I not just do This One Thing without you getting uppity? It's not all about you, kiddo!" 

My son isn't conforming to the original image I had of him. Neither am I conforming to the image of a serene, well-adjusted me. We're just muddling through. Which is why I get irate (my favourite activity, it seems) when I see this sort of headline on a parenting magazine: "Perfect Play Dates - less fights, more fun". Our children's play dates are meant to be perfect now?! Here follows my letter of protest.

"Dear Coles Baby & Toddler Magazine

"I'm writing with regard to a headline on the cover of your Spring 2012 edition. 'Perfect Play Dates' is an irresponsible title for the article.

"Parents, especially first-timers, are under an enormous amount of pressure to live up to an ideal largely perpetuated by the media.

"If you were genuinely interested in offering advice and support to parents alongside self-promotion, perhaps you could consider your use of alliteration in future. Stop pressuring parents to strive for perfection. It doesn't exist."

May I encourage you also to fight against the tyranny of perfection. You will need to start by forcibly restraining me from arranging things nicely.

The politics of pink

My son is regularly mistaken for a girl. This doesn't bother me. He's only 14 months old, after all. He has lovely golden curls which I never want to cut off. (I'm going to though, alright? Eventually).

It seems to really bother those who do the mistaking, as it were. They become very apologetic and assume they have committed some terrible faux pas. I don't think they believe me when I say I don't mind. Sometimes I sense their indignation at the way my child is presented, as if he should be offering more concrete clues as to his gender: 1) he has curls, 2) he is wearing a pink shirt, 3) it is 'teamed' with blue shorts. This confuses people. 

My boy is still so young yet already there is societal pressure on him to conform. Fashion is just one area of many. Variety in boys' clothing is generally non-existent; the uniform of T-shirt and shorts is presented in a palette of navy, khaki and brown. Red for Christmas, maybe. My son has personality and flair. Khaki just doesn't suit his nature nor his skin tone. Pink is a much more suitable match. So sue me.

I don't wish I had a girl. I'm not trying subconsciously to turn my toddler into one. I just want him to be who is.