Parenting Past Perfect
Honorable Mention, Adult Essay Category; 2010 Bethesda Magazine/Bethesda Urban Partnership Short Story and Essay Contest
Bookstores are chock full of parenting manuals. They provide guidance on all conceivable, and some inconceivable, aspects of parenting. For practical advice, please refer directly to them.
I have performed no research and conducted no studies. Prior to having children, I was quite knowledgeable on how to be a perfect parent. Since having children, I have discovered that the only immutable path to becoming a perfect parent is to not procreate.
For those among us who still aspire to remain perfect parents after the arrival of our children, do not despair. I offer guidance. Based on my eighty plus years of parenting (arrived at by combining the ages of my offspring), I have determined that there are five prerequisites to perfect parenting. Master them and you will achieve perfect parenthood. You will be alone in your perfection, but isolation has always been the price society exacts for perfection.
The first step to becoming a perfect parent is to become omniscient. Once you know everything that your child is doing, you can significantly decrease the chances that you will be blindsided. The drawback is the burden of knowing everything your child is doing.
Next, develop impenetrable derma. You will be adored, criticized, admired, dissected, befriended and reviled by your children in rapid, random succession. Ignore it all. The more you allow yourself to be flattered by the positive, the more devastated you will be by the negative which will inevitably follow. Accept no progress reports on your parenting until your children are parents or possibly grandparents.
Third, acclimate yourself to a feeling of pervasive anxiety. If you stop feeling it, call your doctor.
Fourth, practice parenting on someone else’s children. It is not the practice that instructs so much as the forewarning you should receive when you discover how willingly parents surrender their children. Go ahead. Approach the next harried parent you see deep in a losing negotiation with his or her child. The following scenario is likely to occur.
You: “May I practice parenting on your child?”
Parent: “Oh, my goodness, yes! By all means! I’ll be back in…say, fifteen years?”
And finally, before your limited imagination encourages you to instill in your child the belief that there is no limit to what she or he can accomplish, ascertain exactly what your child intends to accomplish. Then measure that against what you as a parent are able or willing to withstand. Self-confidence and independence are lovely in theory but their realization can be a bit trying.
Now. Go forth and multiply. And may my force be with you.
Emily Glicksman recently moved to Bethesda after living in Lawrence, Kan., for the past 15 years. She is the mother of four children. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, and has an MBA from Cornell.