[Dash of SAS] I didn't have to be the perfect mom
After a visit to her grandparents and being asked for the nth time by her grandfather (my father) why she was more interested in playing soccer and not playing something more “proper” like the piano, my daughter finally gave in to her rising annoyance and asked, “Mom, why does Lolo always bug me about that?”
Adamantly, she added, “I don’t want to learn how to play the piano. I want to play soccer.”
It was a difficult question to answer. Either I made up a flimsy excuse or threw my good intentioned, albeit misinformed, father under the bus.
My best explanation, which I hoped did not sound like a generic one, was that was how parents of that generation just were. They were old-fashioned, and so where their expectations and stereotypes. I further justified my statement by saying that with her grandfather in his 70s and she in her tweens, any conversation between them would be like hurdling a multi-generation gap.
“Imagine, they didn’t even have Facebook when Lolo was your age!” I quipped, but my analogy and attempt at humor fell on deaf ears.
“They want me to be the typical little girl, doing typical girly things and I’m so not like that,” she whined.
I remained silent, not wanting to fan the flames, when she surprised me by asking, “Is that okay with you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, anxious that I would make the wrong presumptions about her question.
“That I’m not the perfect typical little girly-girl. Is that okay with you?”
There was that word again: perfect.
I had my own struggles with that word at a much older age than my 11-year-old daughter. My own quest for perfection was marked by my desire to be the perfect mother and my chosen mode of self-castigation was over-compensation.
Everything I did was measured and calculated.
I needed to make up for being at work, I needed to be both mom and dad during the weekdays in our home, I needed to not make her feel that I could not give her everything the other kids had. All the while, I had to look like I could do it all when really, I was exhausted by all the pretending, projecting and posturing.
And often, I fell short of expectations – mostly my own.
At some point, I did the one thing I had not tried. I acknowledged that I couldn’t do the whole perfect mom thing – I can’t even cook! – because I wasn’t the perfect mom, but then, neither was anyone else. So I just tried being me first, then being a mom. Instead of the other way around.
Sure, our apartment was tad messier, we ordered take-out more and we sometimes watched TV even on a school night, but we both were also less tense, less anxious about making mistakes around each other.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, my daughter and I ended up talking more about our day or just quietly sitting next to each other while she studied and I worked on my laptop. Occasionally, we would study her lessons together.
Not sweating the small stuff
I didn’t hide it when I didn’t know something and didn’t try to cover up when I messed up – usually mixing up the days of the week. I just laughed and promised to do better next time. I decided not to sweat the small stuff.
I was terrified what she would think about this less than perfect parent. (I bet this isn’t what she bargained for when I promised I would never hide anything from her.)
But ditching the quest for perfection also led to something else; it freed her from my hovering, it liberated her from my constant pressuring to do this and that. Gratefully, she took it upon herself to be more self-sufficient and slowly, I began to see signs of accountability – as well as a level of maturity and calm I sometimes lacked myself.
So she reminds me to be more organized, she gently admonishes me for singing “Don’t You Forget About Me” out loud in public (even if it is the version from Pitch Perfect and not from what she calls “the ancient,” The Breakfast Club), but for the most part, my daughter let me be me and liked me anyway.
At least that’s what I thought when I heard (heard, not eavesdropped) her talking to her friend on the phone saying, “My mom’s pretty cool….actually, she’s totally badass.” - Rappler.com
Before she became a public health journalist, Ana P. Santos was assistant vice-president at a bank. She hung up her stilettos and traded them in for much more comfortable wedges when she blinked and realized that her daughter had grown up and she almost missed it. Her days are now a mesh between writing stories and soccer games and she's enjoying her every minute of it, but her stilettos are always on stand by for emergencies – fashion or otherwise. Follow her on Twitter at @iamAnaSantos or at www.sexandsensibilities.com