Cary News: Opinion

Parent Pathways: Three parenting mistakes I don’t feel guilty about anymore

There’s so much guilt when it comes to parenting these days.

I’m not sure why. I guess we all want so much to be perfect, to give our children the best experiences and never make mistakes.

But, man, that’s hard. Moms and dads are people too. We’re only human, and we make mistakes.

But are all of our “mistakes” really so bad? Or are we being fed a bit of bull about all this perfect parenting stuff?

It got me thinking. Here are three parenting “faults” I’m guilty of – and have felt guilty about – that could be quite good.

Not going to everything: My husband and I used to fight about this a lot when my 10-year-old was younger. Since we had only one kid, I thought we should go to everything – every practice, every game, every school meeting.

Besides, all the other parents did. How would it make us look if we didn’t go? Like we didn’t love our child.

But my husband flat-out refused. He’s the oldest of five, and his parents rarely showed up to extracurricular events. My parents were the same way. I can count on one hand the number of swim meets my parents went to in five years (two fingers actually).

Working 10- to 12-hour days five days a week, there were things my husband wanted or needed to do on the weekends or in the evenings that coincided with kid events. I worked and went to school at the time, and there were things I wanted or needed to do, too.

After a few years and a lot of bickering, I finally resolved that maybe our lives didn’t have to revolve around the kid.

After all, one day our son will be off living his own life, if all goes well. What will be left for us if we give up our hobbies, interests and friends in the pursuit of perfect parenting?

I think it teaches him the world doesn’t revolve around him. As a family, we all have individual interests, which carry equal weight. As parents, we try to have at least one of us at the bigger events – that’s been a guideline – but sometimes it doesn’t work out, and it’s really not the end of the world.

Get out there, alone: Yeah, it’s nice to have friends on the same soccer or basketball team, but that’s not always possible.

When my son was younger, I used to turn cartwheels to find friends to sign up for activities with him so he’d have a buddy. I cringe when I remember the few times I even let him quit when it couldn’t be arranged.

I’m of a different mindset today. I’ve had to walk solo into so many rooms and meetings this past year, and although it’s scary, it’s fantastic practice for growing both your confidence and your capabilities.

So now my parting advice to my son when he’s going in alone is this: “You’ll be fine. Introduce yourself, smile and ask people questions. Everybody likes to talk about themselves.”

This is my verbal equivalent to giving him a loving foot-shove out of the car, but there you have it.

Being friends: I know, I know. I’m supposed to be a parent, not a friend.

But, I admit, I like to have fun with my kid. He’s funny, and I like joking around with him. The other day I almost convinced him the toe separators from my pedicure were marshmallow candy. He was thoroughly disgusted – “What kind of mom does that?” – and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Frankly, I like the little guy, and even though we set the rules, the chores, the consequences and all the serious stuff, I’d like to have a relationship with him that goes beyond rules and expectations. That’s “friendly,” but I don’t see anything wrong it.

So, there you have it: three fewer things to feel guilty about.

I need to come up with more. Guilt is such a wasted emotion. We’re all just doing the best we can.