Some of my kids are in karate (actually mixed martial arts). The instructors are always telling them to do their best at whatever they do, whatever their particular best is. As a mom of a disabled child, his best is not the same as the children around him. His only comparison is to himself – is he better than he was the week before? Is he giving it his all, is he doing his best? (I love that about the school we go to.)
It began to occur to me that the same applies to us as parents. We strive to be perfect parents, better than our own parents were, if we came from a background of trauma ourselves. If we have special needs kids, disabled, delayed kids, trauma kids, we can feel as if their lack of progress or their lack of keeping up with their peers rests solely on our shoulders as our failure. It is not. If we have done our best at that moment, if we have grown and learned and done better than the time before, if we are seeing areas where we can improve ourselves (without putting the pressure on to be “perfect”), then we are doing just fine. One of my attachment issues kid’s therapist told me, “If you are doing good 51% of the time, then you are a good parent.” That’s it. I just have to do ok a little more than half of the time. My thinking had been every screw up and mistake I made was impacting that child for the rest of his life. Every mistake was like a death sentence for his healing. But I just need to do good a little more than half the time? I can do that. I am doing that, I think. Yes I screw up and make mistakes…. we all do. But not most of the time, in my knowledge. And more than half the time, way more than half of the time, I am giving it my best, I am giving it 100%, I am striving to do the best I possibly can, I am learning and growing and adapting to the needs of my child and family.
So remember that next time you feel like a total failure as a parent. You only have to be a decent parent half the time to be considered an exceptional parent. I’d venture a guess, if you’re reading this blog, that you are doing way better than that. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just do your best, in that moment, and when you have a bad moment, or day, as we all do, remember that is part of the 49% and move on. Do what it takes (respite, a break, a glass of wine) to reset yourself so that you can switch over to the other half.
And just hang in there!