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The myth of the perfect family

Spring flowers in a time of COVID-19. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

A few weeks before the world closed a friend and I were talking about our children. His response to my family surprised me. He had this view that my life was perfect and I had churned out a couple of superhumans. Of course, I would like to agree and not throw my children under the bus, but my conscience won’t let me. I’ve been pretty candid about my kids. Just like my children have been pretty freewheeling with their opinions about me. I am not a perfect parent and I am grateful that I have not raised perfect people.

I’ve always thought those parents that sit back and talk about their flawless children are either naive or in denial. (I’m not talking about irretrievable mistakes that come with life-altering consequences. I’m talking about normal behavior that sometimes can’t be tolerated.) Trying to be perfect is exhausting to be around. Now, in the time of COVID, it must be even more difficult to maintain.

The issue my family is currently experiencing is not unique. Let’s call it “an overwhelming amount of time spent together.” We’ve played board games, put together puzzles, watched movies, read books, and painted the kitchen. I can keep listing the family events like we were whistling while we worked, but that is not how things necessarily go down. We’ve enjoyed all those things. It just doesn’t paint the complete picture. We have also argued (me), gone for long walks alone (me) and locked ourselves in our bedroom (me, again.) I can’t speak for the others because sometimes I need to socially-distance myself right out of the house.

The point of all my rambling is that life can be disappointing. A pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. People are dying and others are stuck in abusive households. People are risking their lives and the economy has us in a stranglehold. Throughout all of that, it is my job to teach my children to figure out how to best deal with disappointment. It is my job to show my children that it is normal to be upset, get mad, and then find a healthy way to deal with it. In their future they will face other challenges, just hopefully not life-threatening. Perhaps they will be better able to cope because of what they learned during the reign of COVID-19.

I am not a perfect parent. I am not even close. I make mistakes, I learn, and I reevaluate. I hope I have taught my children that it is okay to make and learn from our mistakes. Throughout this self-isolation and social-distancing, we are working on communicating, forgiving, and giving each other space, sometimes more than just the recommended 6 feet. I wish you all your own ways of honoring your imperfect selves.

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