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Challenge: Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

A Perfectionist's Guide to Parenting: Stop

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Alarms are set on my phone for every step of my day. From waking up to getting myself ready to getting the kids ready to the time I have to tidy up the house to the time the kids have to complete their tasks before school (brush teeth, fix hair, eat breakfast, get snack for school, etc.), I know what we’re doing every step of the day, every day of the week, day in and day out.

It’s crazy to me to think about all we get done in a week. Any second of down time or sleep is met with a time of utter chaos making dinner and keeping kids happy and making time for play time outside and cleaning up messes and remembering to breathe.

Not only do I take care of my two girls I also take care of my neighbor’s baby four days a week. As a stay-at-home dad, I not only keep my house tidy and my kids’ routines for the week, but I also do it for a second household as well.

I pride myself on being organized. It’s who I’ve been since I was a little kid. My dad would make fun of me for folding my underwear and socks. If I’m organized, my head is clear. It’s how I function.

But here’s the problem with my perfectionist/OCD/organized attitude: kids.

Kids don’t care about the schedule. Kids want what they want when they want it. And they want it in the right pink cup.

The truth is I am so stressed out trying to keep up with our schedules because every frigging second someone spills something or there is poop to clean up from a kid or a dog or they’re screaming about something and I’m trying to take care of someone or something else and I have to endure the screaming until I can finish the task I’m already on.

Add to that the anxiety of wanting to appear like I have all my ducks in a row and my kids are perfect angels in front of other parents. Like I’m not literally crying after my 3 year old refuses to eat her breakfast and I just give up and wonder if I’m equipped to be a stay-at-home parent. It came to a point last week where I was apologizing to other parents for my crass attitude because I was so frustrated with my children not listening to me when it was time to get out the door for school.

As much as I’ve been trying to have my kid’s routine organized like a spreadsheet, kids don’t function that way. I want them to walk in a straight line and they want to run in circles and stop to play with their toys and give each other snuggles in the morning and have a dance party and then you have to tell them to put their shoes on… again.

To be more functional I have to embrace that we are… dysfunctional. And that’s ok.

I have to stop being so task-oriented and listen to my children’s needs.

I have to stop forcing my children to do what I say and allow them space to learn and find their own independence. I need to teach them what is expected of them but then allow them to learn the consequences if they don’t meet expectations. They need the space to mess up so they can learn to do better. My job is not to force feed them but to show them grace when they mess up so they have the strength to do better next time.

Our true power does not come from perfection but having the strength to love each other through our mistakes and to show grace when we fail.

Sometimes I need to go against my organized nature and simply stop to play.

Sometimes I need to stop to breathe. To drink coffee or water or a beer. Or to go outside for a walk. To simply be still rather than thinking about what we have to do next.

Sometimes I need to stop to interact with other adults, whether it’s a neighbor or dads on social media or moms at the playground.

Sometimes my wife and I need to stop parenting and to have a real conversation with each other and to remind ourselves why we love each other and that we exist beyond being a great parenting team.

Sometimes I need to **stop looking at my phone** and listen to my child. To play games. To be like Bandit, the dad from Bluey.

We need to stop looking at what other families are doing and see that our family is our family and only we know what’s best for our kids. Our kids are unique and need individual attention to find what’s best for them.

And let’s be honest: every parent feels inadequate with this parenting gig. We’re all doing our best, and we all fall short. We all want to pull our hair out and cry some days.

Find those parents who won’t judge your mess and will sit and commiserate about the chaos that you deal with daily and say, “Me too.”

Find those friends who will love your crazy kids as their own and you’ll do the same for their rugrats.

Find your village who works as a team to take care of your screaming children. Together you know your imperfect children are making mistakes daily and we’re all in this grind together figuring out how to help our kids be their true selves, who they are made to be.

Be like Isabella on Encanto and realize that “perfection” and “grace” and “elegance” isn’t always being true to yourself. Allow your family to have spikes and rough edges and to be a little messy.

Perfection isn’t the goal; loving your children is.

And loving our children perfectly is fighting off “being the perfect family.” It’s being the messy, loud, late family. It’s being the joyful, listening, playing, and jumping in puddles family.

Stop seeking perfection and start loving life with your imperfect family.

From one perfectionist to another: stop.

These words are for me as much as they are for you because I know I’m terrible at stopping. And I need to be better. Stop chasing the game. Stop and be there for your family.

Life goes by so fast and we don’t realize how fast until we stop and look at how far we’ve come.

My dad will be 81 years old in a couple weeks. He has dementia and his memory keeps getting worse every day. He forgets things like how he has diabetes and he needs to take medication every day. He forgets things like how I wrote two books or that I live in a different state than him. I’m worried about what he will forget next.

I’m the youngest of four children, and my dad’s only son. I remember thinking 20 years ago how old my dad would be as we each aged together. My memories of my parents and what they have given me and my sisters growing up we will treasure forever.

I want to make sure for my girls that what they remember is not us trying to clean the house and keep our schedule organized and to fold our underwear drawer.

But they remember I stopped.

“What’s that honey?”

“Yes, I can have a tea party right now…”

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