After moving to a new neighborhood, many years ago, I found myself talking to a nice woman about who the different families were who lived around me. I couldn’t wait to get acquainted with everyone, and her information about the names of families and what age children lived in what homes was very informative for me. When she mentioned one family, the tone of her conversation changed. With contempt in her voice, this wonderful woman started telling me how this particular family was a “perfect family.” This label was obviously meant to be a negative remark. She sited how this family thought they were so great and perfect. Then she proceeded to tell me how spoiled this family’s children were, and how mean they were to her children but the parents of the other family wouldn’t ever punish their children for their bad behaviors. At this point in the conversation, I knew something interesting about this talkative neighbor. She wanted her children to appear as perfect, and she felt that any other family who appeared perfect was competition.
This conversation left a lasting impression on me. I had never consciously noticed how common it is for parents to use their children to compete with their neighbors and for parents to create an illusion that their child is “perfect” or somehow superior to normal children. I had also not realized that I was doing it too. At the time I only had one small child, but that was all I needed to join the competition for the perfect child. I compared him to all of his friends and cousins, and boasted about my child whenever possible. I started doing this without even realizing that I was doing it. Along with most of the other parents around me, I tried to present the “perfect” child to everyone else.
I continued down this path until I met a woman who showed me another way to be. I can really say, I didn’t see any other way to be as a parent up until that point. I finally met the woman my talkative neighbor told me had the “perfect family.” This woman was completely different than I had anticipated. She freely spoke of the struggles her children were having, and her struggles as a mother. I went into her home and noticed it was not perfect, but it was inspiring. She focused her family on everything most important, like religion, faith, love, and vision. I realized if I would have told her people thought her family was “perfect” she would have laughed in my face. She knew her family wasn’t perfect, and was fine with that because she knew her vision was perfect.
Be enough because you have a vision of what you want for your home. Know that you can’t make “perfect” children or “perfect” families, but you can be “perfect” in purpose and vision. Competing with your neighbors will only tear you down and take your focus off of what is most important; working toward making joyful adults, who know what their mission in life is, and can’t wait to fight for it, and have solid relationships with God and family. Love your children more than your ego. Love your children enough to allow them to progress through childhood as non-perfect beings, who are a work in progress, just like you are.