Imperfect Parenting on the 4th of July
When you have little kids it’s always a challenge to figure out exactly what to do for the 4th of July. Every parent wants their sweet little tot to have amazing memories of waving flags, ice cream, and fireworks but this desire has to balanced with the facts. Fighting the crowds, heat, and bugs to find a spot can be hard enough but one also has to factor in the wait time for the actual fireworks. The bedtime for my kids is 8:00 so committing to a show that won’t even start until 9:30 is something not to be taken lightly.
For my family, this year’s plan included attending an awesome party in a private location with an amazing view of the fireworks. The food, drinks, games, etc. were all taken care of. I was over the moon and ready to make the memories last. I was feeling prepared and ready as I pulled out my camera to start capturing the moments. The only problem was that the memory card had been left at home. Never fear, I’ll use the video camera, better than nothing right? Oops, forgot that at home too. Now I was down to using only my phone for capture all these great memories. I tried to keep smiling as I took a few pictures and videos but inside I was pissed at myself. Finally a 4th of July experience to write home about and I was stuck with my crappy phone camera. Sigh.
The next morning I awoke to the National Anthem. My 4 ½ year old was watching the video we shot of the fireworks. Then she was looking at all the pictures from the night. Even though my phone screen is cracked and the sound quality is awful, she was delighted. All week she has been asking to see the video and pictures from the 4th of July. “Sure” I say. Inside I’m thankful to her for reminding me once again of what’s truly important. She didn’t need fancy equipment to enjoy the moment, just a sense of awareness that it was indeed a moment to enjoy and remember. Simple pleasures, not perfect plans.
One thing I love about working with parents is that, without fail, they all want their children to have a great childhood. Despite having only the best of intentions, we all get stuck sometimes because being a parent is hard! Here a few reminders on how to proceed when we find ourselves not –so-perfectly-parenting:
1- Stop, consciously take a moment to see the big picture- Is forgetting the camera equipment really a big enough mistake to let it put a damper on the whole evening? Ask: What is the goal of this experience? What do I want my children to remember? I seriously doubt you want them to recall how you flew off the handle or shut down in anger over some petty detail. Be conscious of the energy you are creating.
2- Breathe- If you’re headed down a road you’d rather avoid, inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips (imagine you’re blowing out through a straw) for 1-2 minutes. It will calm your limbic system (otherwise known as keeping your wits about you).
3- Give yourself a pep talk. Take credit for your efforts and accomplishments as a parent. Quit being hard on yourself when you screw up. Everybody screws up. Let your kid see you demonstrating self-compassion, healthy frustration and confident problem solving. With every action and reaction, you are teaching your children how to treat themselves and how to handle life.
4- Forgive yourself for your mistakes but learn from them.