“Perfect” is an ambiguous adjective. We all have our own idea of perfection; the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect spouse, the perfect home in the perfect area, complete with the perfect vehicle in which to transport the perfect kids.
My idea of perfect as a teenager was marrying a bull-fighting, guitar-playing poet. He would be handsome, charismatic, and deep. We would live in a run-down but well-loved flat in Prague. We would write, make love, and change the world through both. My plan was to be married by 23, and have my first child by 25, so that I would still be young and flexible enough to chase him/her around. Of course, my love-child would be gentle, soft-spoken, intuitive, and life would be bliss. The perfect husband, and the perfect child. This was my dream, and my plan.
I was 16. Give me a break.
Thirteen years later, my life is none of these things. My husband is not a bull-fighting, guitar-playing poet. He is handsome, charismatic, and deep, but sometimes these exact things drive me insane. Our home is run-down, but it’s not a love-nest in Prague. And I did manage to be married with a child by 25… In fact, I managed to be married with FOUR children. Four rambunctious, loud, sticky, impulsive children.
Thirteen years later, and my perception of “perfect” has drastically changed. I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want the perfect husband and the perfect kids. I want grit. I want to forge this family out of blood, sweat, and tears. Give me the sticky and obstinate children, the husband who snores and drives me absolutely bat-s*** crazy with how literal and analytical he is! I want the kids who talk back and make messes, who are stubborn and impulsive.
Why? Because these things are what help us grow. These are the crosses we have to bear—each other’s weaknesses. These things are mirrors reflecting where I myself am lacking, and where I could do better. These things serve as reminders, both through their actions, and my reactions, that I am flawed. I’m not perfect. I would rather this family be swords forged in fire than sprouted in a field of daisies that wilt beneath too much heat.
I am glad my husband is analytical, because this quality in him–as crazy as it drives me sometimes–has helped him to see things differently than others. It helps him to solve problems both at home and in the work field.
I am glad that my children make messes and are stubborn. If they never made messes, they would never learn to clean them. If they aren’t stubborn, then they will be easily swayed in life. If they don’t talk back, they’ll never learn to speak up for themselves and others when it is most necessary.
I know some parents would try and hammer these qualities out of their children, to make them quiet, docile little things, but this isn’t what I want. I want to hammer and refine their perceived negative qualities and show them how they can be used to find success in life, to establish a firm foundation of faith in morality in them. I want them to be stubborn and vocal when it matters. I want them to have backbones. I don’t want them to be afraid of life, to be afraid of screwing up and making a mess, because they will. No matter how they try to avoid it, they’ll make bad decisions, both big and small. And you know what? I’ll still love them.
Of course, I get frustrated and angry when they talk-back, when they do exactly what I told them not to, and don’t do what I tell them to do. There are times when I want to rip the hair out of my head just to show them how done I am with the way they act and speak sometimes. I’m still human. I’m sure there are things about me my children dislike. In fact, our 5yo daughter told us we’re the worst parents ever earlier today because I grounded her after she refused to do something I asked her to do.
And you know what? I pray that she’ll stick to her guns that hard if/when a boy ever tries to pressure her into sex, or when her friends try to pressure her into drinking or doing drugs. I hope she looks them in the face and tells them where they can shove it, fiery little thing she is now. I hope she’ll fight as fiercely against people who would want to harm or use or mistreat herself or others as she does when her brothers try to steal her Peppa Pig toys.
I hope my oldest son can one day use his impulsiveness to bring fun and silliness when and where it’s needed most. I hope he adapts it to quick thinking and being mentally agile. I hope it sends him on adventures worth telling his grandchildren one day.
I hope our second-oldest can take his incessant–and oftentimes infuriating–need to argue, and use it for good. I hope he finds something he is passionate about to put this quality to good use. I hope that his being able to laugh through literally everything will be a comfort to him and others when life gets really tough, because it will. It always does.
I hope that our youngest, the little boy who is like the Bruce Willis of two-year-olds, will take his adventurous curiosity and explore the world, explore other cultures and other ways of life. I hope he’ll never stop seeking, never stop wondering.
Because I was once a prisoner to comparison. I would look at my friends’ children, the children who were so well-behaved and docile and quiet, and I would feel jealousy. It made me resentful towards my own children. It made me wish I had something other than what I do. It made me wonder what was wrong with me as a parent that my kids turned out to be the ones who end up on Ellen because of their shenanigans. How fair is that to them? That I should resent them for who they are, because who they are doesn’t fit into my neat little box of who they should be? What does it teach them about love, about acceptance and understanding if I try to make them fit a mold they were never meant to fit?
Yes, I want them to be successful, productive members of society, and I understand that this requires discipline, fortitude, and obedience. It means tact, social aptitude, and certainly not giving someone a detailed account of your daily BM, or loudly shouting “I FARTED” while in Mass.
I don’t let them get away with being disrespectful. They face punishment when they talk back, when they deliberately disobey, and when they hurt each other. Day by day, I’m teaching them prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. Some days we have to learn the hard lessons together. Other days I have to use my own shortcomings as lessons for them: don’t be like your mother and engage in fights with people on the internet! There are even some days when I’m the one who learns a lesson from them.
I thank God everyday for what I have, and for who I get to share it with. Even when they drive me batty.