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Debunking the Perfect Family Myth, aka…

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School Yard Survival Tips for Parents:

Schoolyard Stickmoms

You’ve gotten your children to the schoolyard, more or less fed, dressed with a touch of ketchup, slightly rumpled hair, and one child that you’ve brib… I mean,… encouraged to attend school with a promise of a bowlful of gummy bears for after school snack.

You’d be feeling okay about this but then you spot THE family dancing, laughing, holding hands and hugging their mom cheerfully as they enter the building. The littlest THE child stops for what appears to be consoling.
“Phew,” you think, “all is not perfect.”

But then Ms. THE of THE Family spots you and heads your way.  She glistens – hair done beautifully, make up brilliantly natural, her clothes pressed and coordinated, in contrast to the haphazard pony in your hair and the debate in your head about whether anyone at work will notice you haven’t showered or that your outfit is the same one as two days ago.
Cheerfully Ms. THE says, “Little Billy.. he was so concerned that they hadn’t made a lunch for me today!  My children have such fun making lunches each morning. They take turns cutting fruit, cleaning vegetables, wrapping sandwiches. Usually they make my lunch too.  The older children forgot to tell Billy that I’d be having lunch with the president today, so the poor little guy felt bad. He had a great time last night, though, helping us all to make homemade yogurt and granola from all natural organic products and juicing the wheat grass we grow in our year round garden.  Little Billy.. he even loves to be like the older kids and make his bed and lay out everything he needs for their after school classes of soccer and dance.  Aren’t children wonderful how they can be so joyful and bright all the time?”

(The Scenario for Dads to picture might be this: Mr. THE drives the truck of your dreams, and you notice the very large decal that reads “sponsored by Pilsner Beer.”)

And you?  You just took about 53 hits to your confidence as a parent.  Ms. THE only triggered a few; you added a whole domino of others.

Okay, readers, which parent do you most resemble? It is likely that of all the readers, not one will claim to be like Ms. THE. A rather high percentage, though, will relate very well to the parent with the ketchup covered kids.

You see, THE family does not exist.  In the parenting realm of unrealistic expectations, it’s almost like we fail to notice the other parent’s hair out of place, the ketchup and spilled milk on their kids, or that she didn’t say ‘president’, she said ‘resident.’   Perhaps that’s all she mumbled as she walked by you… the rest of the conversation might be what you imagined her life to be like.
And that parent who does happen to be immaculately dressed?  She, too, may relate to the ketchup covered kids parent.  Perhaps she’s thinking there’s nothing perfect about getting up at 4:30 a.m. to create her image because she’s terrified of leaving home unkempt.  The Ms. THEs of the world may well be looking at you wishing that she had the confidence to be as gorgeously natural and relaxed as you.
As a parent in the school yard, it’s so easy to compare yourself to the beautifully dressed, the always laughing, the social butterfly, the creative artist, the wealthy professional, the skinny and the environmentally perfect.

Here’s tips to get over it:

1.  Let go the fantasy that has you thinking other parents are perfect with perfect families.  They don’t exist.

2.  Imagination is a powerful tool. You know you have one because you’ve used it to imagine the perfect family. Instead imagine you have a ‘thought guard.‘  This is like a bodyguard but one that fends off energy draining thoughts.  Your imagined ‘thoughtguard’ could be a magnificent genie, a powerful lion or even Arnold Schwarzenegger – just imagine anything you consider to be a strong being.  Start to notice when you have ‘hard on self’ thoughts and playfully imagine your thoughtguard fending off the comparisons and unkind thoughts with their magic wand, loud roar, or overpowering stance.

3. Leave the schoolyard uplifted instead of defeated:  Give a smile and a compliment.  Acknowledge the artist by asking about their artwork. Tell Ms. Always Laughing that her laughter brightens the school yard. And Ms. THE in the immaculate outfit? Tell her how nice she looks.  (Dads, acknowledge the guy with the nice truck.  You know where that could lead.)

Now go confidently, young parent, into that schoolyard armed with a thoughtguard and a repertoire of kind words for others.  You will survive!

Article originally published by Janet L. Whitehead in Kamloops Momma Magazine August 2010

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