One of the most precious things about having a true friend is being able to share your less-than-perfect parenting moments. I had a good laugh today when my friend — I’ll call her “Anne” — phoned me to sheepishly confess that she had thrown her kids’ Advent calendar out the door. It happened to be a Lindt chocolate-filled Advent calendar… that I had just given her.
Now before you pass judgement, you should know a few things about Anne. First and foremost, she is the most incredible wife and mother — approaching sainthood in her care and patience for her three young kids (including four-year-old twins!). She also just returned to work as a grade-school teacher, a job that she is genuinely passionate about. And sadly, Anne just lost her dear father to cancer last month.
Anne’s dad had been sick for a long time, so she knew — at least rationally — that this time was coming. And like the forward-thinking, emotionally strong woman she is, she shared her feelings with close friends, and even went through professional counselling to prepare herself as best she could for the inevitable. But on this particular morning, Anne explained, she felt like the initial bubble of calm surrounding her dad’s passing was starting to burst. She felt sad and angry. She wanted to talk to someone, so she picked up the phone to call her mother.
It was at this exact moment that her energetic, chocolate-craving young kids decided to start fighting over the aforementioned Advent calendar (in retrospect, I really would have been a much better friend if I had bought her three calendars — not just one). And, at last, Anne came to the frayed end of her very, very long rope.
To add insult to injury, the kids ran to the living room window and gazed out — three little noses pressed up against the glass — to see their Advent calendar lying on the sidewalk in front of the house (Anne has a pretty good arm). Low and behold, a passing teenager stooped down and proceeded to empty the entire contents of the Advent calendar into his backpack! Anne worried that she had traumatized the kids by literally “throwing Christmas out the window.”
The whole quirky situation sounded just like a scene that might play out on Modern Family. After we finished laughing about the whole incident, however, I confessed to Anne that I liked hearing these things about her — because it reminded me that she was human.
Like so many parents, Anne tends to be overly critical of herself. Sometimes, instead of gauging the quality of her parenting on the countless amazing efforts she makes for her family, she hones in on the low moments and frustrations. She doesn’t see the forest for the trees.
So in honour of Anne, I am challenging myself — and all other parents out there — to throw “perfect” out the window (or the door in Anne’s case!) during this Christmas season. Because we are not only parents — we are individuals. And because we are not always going to be perfect. We will lose loved ones. We will lose patience. We might not be able to find that coveted toy in the requested colour, and the Christmas cookies might be ever-so-slightly burned around the edges.
But our kids are little individuals too; they are so much more intuitive than we give them credit for. As parents, we need to trust that they will know when their deepest needs are met; they will know when they are truly loved and secure. Because for a little child, that’s more valuable than all the Lindt chocolates in the world.