In an age where we want kids to succeed, to win, to be movers and shakers, in this world with all its passions and problems, perhaps modern day parents are just trying too hard.
Perhaps, despite all our efforts to give more, we are trapping our own children in our own materialistic, anxious, over-scheduled, and over-worked ways. How can it be otherwise when we begin their lives with the same patterns we ourselves are exhausted and overwhelmed by? Too much. Too fast. Too soon.
The Parenting Competition
We want them to do well in life, to make a difference, to get along with others and to develop interests. We want them to constantly be “learning.” And we want them to be happy. So what do we do?
Playgroups. Playdates. Flash cards. Educational toys. Music lessons. Dance lessons. Sports. Fancy art projects. Books, books, and more books. Birthday parties. Museums. Movies and educational shows. Holidays and family vacations scattered throughout the year.
Less time at home. Lack of a peaceful routine. Fewer family dinners. More expectation to “grow up.”
Just thinking about it all makes me overwhelmed. I can’t even imagine how my two and five year olds feel.
Even though I never wanted to turn parenting into a competition, I have. I have been competing with the “best” of what I think I could offer. And once I got there… finally… I thought I would be happy.
But how did I get this way? Was it the media? Our over-the-top culture? The vast amount of research now available to parents? The pressure for women to be the best mom, wife, worker, and fashion model around? The pressure on our kids to be the smartest, the funniest, or the most talented kid in the neighborhood? I don’t know. But I don’t want it to be like this any more. I don’t want pressure to be the undercurrent of my life or my children’s.
I want my kids to have time to be kids.
To play outside all afternoon. To laugh at the dinner table as the family gathers together for a home cooked meal. To sing in the car (instead of argue over who made us late) and make cards to celebrate holidays. To help bake a cake on their birthday, and be excited about (and grateful for) receiving a few special gifts. To learn that hard work and service to others are more important than getting an “A” on their report card or their name in the local newspaper.
And I want to be a mom who is relaxed, free to enjoy and work hard in a career of motherhood with all it entails, balanced in the delicate art of motivating and quietly guiding her children, and confident in her role as a first educator and loving role model for the children looking up to her. Able to immediately forgive, strong enough to try again, and present enough to just be without worrying about the “what if” possibilities she sees on screens everywhere.
The Never Perfect Happily Ever After
And even if I achieve this, it does not mean we will all have constant smiles on our faces. There will never be an end to the pain, disappointment, and frustration in and amongst our days. There is an ebb and a flow to parenting, and each day will have its ups and downs. We will handle some situations great, and some not so great. Our kids will have moments of cooperation, and others of testing the limits.
One day will be full of riding the waves while the next may be mostly pulling against the tide, trying to rise above the crashing waters for just long enough to get a breath of air. This is the path life will inevitably take, and this is what makes it beautiful.
There is no perfect, no ultimate goal, no pot of gold to this journey as a parent.
We are simply in an ocean, riding the waves back and forth together, and it is how we ride them that matters most. Honestly, who cares what wave we are on or how high it is going, what wave we think we should be on or how long it has held us above the current? We are all just living, surviving, and hopefully loving our lives.
The constant worry, stress, and rush are just not worth it anymore. I want to look back on my life and see the moments of connection – even if they came in the simplest of forms. This is where I find joy, and where my children feel loved.
To laugh, to love, to embrace the journey. This is my new happily ever after.
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About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.