Parenting: Embracing Imperfection

Post written by: Shawn Carter, Behaviour Specialist

Parenting is not easy.  Before I had children, I remember people saying that parenting is the “toughest job in the world”.  Having worked with children for a number of years, I understood that kids were a lot of work, but I thought the statement was a bit of an exaggeration.  After my first child was born, it became clear to me very quickly that I was wrong.

You often don’t realize how hard something is until you're in the thick of a catastrophic event, or at least it seems that way.  Let me elaborate by sharing a story that I like to call, The “Puke in the Toy Box” Night.  It all started when I left work early with the stomach flu.  I was laying low at home to avoid getting my two young children sick and while my wife was putting our 1-year old down to bed, I heard a blood-curdling scream from upstairs.  Surely someone was dying, I had decided.  I ran upstairs to find my wife, 1-year old, and the toy box in his room covered in vomit.  And when I say covered, I mean that there was vomit in the seams and cracks of toys and on every inch of clothing my wife and son were wearing.  My wife and son jumped in the shower while I began to clean up his room.  No sooner than I had thought to myself, “he could not have puked in a worse spot”, I began projectile vomiting all over his book shelf.  These were books that had sentimental value in our home.  They were read to our older son when he was younger and were the same books that he used to delay bedtime on a nightly basis for several years.  So there I sat, in a mess of mine and my son’s vomit and thought to myself, “parenting is the toughest job in the world”.

When I tell people what I do for a living, a common response is to insinuate (or directly tell me) that I must have “perfect” children who are “so well-behaved”.  I mean surely a Behaviour Specialist should know exactly how to deal with a toddler going through his terrible-twos, or even worse, his terrifying-threes, right?  Wrong. Parenting is hard, even for those of us who dedicate their own careers to helping other parents with their children’s challenging behaviours.  As an imperfect parent myself, I've found that I'm better able to put myself in the shoes of the parents and family members whom I work with.  I'm better able to recognize that families really are doing the best they can and that, despite our best efforts, we aren’t always able to find quick fixes to solve our parental challenges.  Not only have I been the parent with a screaming toddler in a grocery store checkout line, but I have also been the parent who realized he probably made the wrong decision about how he addressed the screaming.

Whether it’s teething, sleep regressions, picky-eating, bedtime-delaying, daycare drop-offs, checkout line showdowns, curfews, conflicts with friends, aggression towards siblings, etc....all parents have experienced a time when they felt like they were doing a terrible job, myself included. But let me reassure you, you are not.  Let me also reassure you that there is support available to help you through the challenges you face as a parent and to help you be the best imperfect parent you can!