That may seem totally obvious. Obviously, there’s no such thing as the Perfect Parent! Right? So it should be easy to avoid planning to be a Perfect Parent. Right? Well, that knowledge seems to disappear for a lot of people; anyone giving advice about parenting, anyone beating themselves up for not doing a better job as a parent, these are just two of the types who seem to believe that there is a right way to do this.
Why is this coming up now, for me? I have no job, and 2012, aka The Baby Year, is approaching. I’ve got nothing to do right now but plan. But, lucky for me, the relatives I’ve been talking to know better than to endorse any plan that claims to produce a Perfect Parent. My sister and my mother-in-law deserve awards for patience, since they consistently reign in my least realistic ideals and remain supportive while doing it.
My sister has two kids under five. She teaches developmental psychology every semester. I have never met anyone who knows more about babies and what they need. I have seen up close how, as a parent, she could not possibly try any harder. Are her kids happy all the time? Of course not! This Christmas, she found time to sit down with me and go through a day in the life of Mom to and Infant. Her youngest is 20-months-old, so she still remembers what she did and the stuff she used when her kids were infants. Incredibly helpful.
But the most helpful thing we talked about was something she did not do. When I told her that I wanted to eliminate toxins from Baby’s sleep environment by getting a new, non-toxic mattress and bed frame and, eventually a non-toxic crib and mattress, she said she understood that impulse. But she asked me to consider whether we had the money for all that. (We don’t, especially not since I lost my main source of income.) Now, this is how cool my sister is: when I asked if she thought that if she had had these things, her daughter’s asthma would be better. She thought about it. She pointed out that the asthma would probably have happened no matter what she did, because her cousin has childhood asthma, it’s in the genes. But more importantly, they hadn’t thought about spending all that money they didn’t really have all those years ago on something they hadn’t really heard much about. In other words, it’s too late. Does she think it has made much of a difference? No.
Risks and benefits. It’s all about weighing the risks and benefits. Risk: if we do not buy non-toxic everything, we will expose our hypothetical baby to bad chemicals. This is true. It is also true that living in an old building will expose our hypothetical baby to bad chemicals. But if we lived in a new building, there would be other bad chemicals. Benefit: if we do buy non-toxic everything, we will limit Hypothetical Baby’s exposure to chemicals. Risk: if we buy all this stuff, we go into major debt. For a bed. And a crib.
I have taken a deep breath. I have mulled it over for a few days. And I am going to settle for an Ikea mattress. We need a new one; ours has a pillow top, which is too squishy for co sleeping. Ikea is actually pretty good, when it comes to chemicals. So we’ll trust the Swedes. And buy non-organic clothes. Because we don’t have unlimited funds. And I will still be a good mother.
But this all ties in to my more general resolution. I am resolved to accept the fact that I am not perfect. I want to remember, at least once a day, that I will never be perfect. Moreover, I am resolved to remember that perfection is not only an unrealistic goal, it is an unhealthy and pointless goal. I am not perfect. I do not want to be perfect, not really. That is my New Year’s resolution.