I was sitting and watching my normal morning news when a segment came on about perfection. The idea of perfection is an ideal and not one that I believe is truly attainable. And while I will always believe in the importance of striving, in a healthy manner, to be perfect the truth of the matter is there has to be a little cynicism put into the mix. There has to be more than a little doubt and disbelief in the striving of perfection. It keeps the stomach pains, and the crying over the simplest of things, and the sheer misery of not attaining the dream in a sort of manageable box. Sort of.
But I long ago realized that I am not perfect. Long ago, and all the years since, the pain and disappointment brought by this mental disease I have has taught me that I am far from perfect. In fact, the self-esteem that should be a part of my own DNA has long since left for someone else’s pasture. This disease, the up and downs, the horrible moments where death is a heartbeat away, the annoyances of recognizing who I really am, has taken away all thoughts of perfection. I will never be perfect. I will never even have the opportunity to try and strive for it.
But then I looked at myself through a mother’s eyes. A mother’s eyes are at once profoundly truthful and disappointingly real. A mother’s eyes can see potential but also know the limitations of those that are their sole focus. A mother’s eyes can fill up with the tears of joy and the tears of heartbreak without much breath in between. My eyes, my mother’s eyes, are just as all seeing and just as blind as every other mother’s eyes out there.
I recognize through those eyes that I am often incredibly strict and demanding of my children. I don’t treat them like slaves but rather force them over and over to find the best part of themselves. I demand that they have better manners than those around them and I demand that they have a healthy and whole view not only of one subject but of a million subjects. Whether we are talking about school work, chores, friendships, responsibilities, or the just the day to day life of a human in this chaotic world, I need my children to have a perception that striving for glory is the better path towards a more complete life. I need them to believe not that perfection is a real thing but that the path towards it is worth walking.
In the next breath, I realized that I wasn’t trying to get my children to find their own perfection, but I was selfishly trying to make sure they were better than me. I knew perfection wasn’t attainable but I have been pushing them since they day they were born to be better than me. And I wonder, is that truly fair?
The truth of the matter is they are going to be better than me; it is a given when one of the parties suffer from mental illness. They will be able to accomplish the thousands of things that I won’t ever be able to accomplish. Because I have to push them to be better than me.
I can’t hold down a job, mostly because the effects of this disease cannot be held back for long. No matter how I am perceived the first day of work that image will drastically change the longer I work with the same people in the same place. I have tried to come to terms with this reality especially when I am reminded of the dreams I once had for my future. But my children will have jobs. They will continue my husband’s credo of working smart not hard. And I will push them to recognize that their dreams are just as important as my dreams for them.
I can’t be in public for long amounts of time. It physically hurts me to be touched by random strangers, and the idea of going somewhere I have never been has the same touches of fear that those small children have regarding the monsters under their beds. But I can force my children into the public. I can even for them, and only for them, take their hand and lead them into new situations and new places. Not because I am not afraid and hurting, but because my mother superpower seems to be hiding the misery I have from my children. I can hide how absolutely horrifying being in public for me is from the ones who need to know and experience what this world has to offer.
These are just two examples of the misery I lead that I won’t allow my children to know. They may have nerves and fears but I don’t ever want them to know the realization that all of the dreams I once counted on are not possible. My dreams are the opposite of perfection. They are dead. But my children still have them and I will do everything I can to protect those dreams of theirs even when my children feel them slipping away.
But as with everything in life there is a cost of trying to find a way to spare my children the disappointments that flow through the blood in my veins. And it is a high cost; not for me, but for the very children I am trying to protect.
I am well aware of my shortcomings. I write about them all the time, to the point I am truly wondering if there is any part of me that isn’t a shortcoming. But my shortcomings have repercussions that often look like ripples in the lake on a beautiful day. And those little waves swamp the lives of my children.
For example, I don’t handle stupid mistakes very well. My son forgot to turn in a piece of paper at the beginning of school which has now resulted in a failing grade for a very easy class. It won’t dramatically effect his overall grade and it was a stupid little mistake that I am sure I too made at least once in my life. But it is those little things, those reminders that my children are not on the same path I wish to push them down, that causes me to lose my temper. I lost it when I saw what my son did and no matter how you try and spin it I was wrong for doing so. I ended up apologizing but the damage had been done. I don’t want my children to feel the pain of an ulcer because they think a small mistake is bigger than the millions of great things they do.
I am only going to give two examples of my pain and one example of my mistake because I don’t think I need to delve much more into the truth of what I am doing to my children and the damage I have to watch out for.
Because it is possible to damage your children; I actually think it is a requirement of motherhood. I know that I can’t be anywhere close to a perfect mom. If I can’t be a perfect person there is no chance to a perfect mom. I will damage my children with the little and stupid reactions I have in my quest to find a way to give my children the chance that I don’t have. So many of my dreams and my future is gone because of this disease and the idea that my children could feel the same hurts me worse than going into public.
I suppose there has to be a balancing act. On one hand is the damage and on the other is the push. Which side is more important? which side is more worthy to focus on? which side will my children more quickly understand? which side is more important for them to feel? You may think the answer is simple, but I dare you to look into your soul and answer not with feeling but with honest assessment. Do you push your children into their own dreams or do you fight for the moments that will destroy you but give your children another insight into the world? Do you concentrate on the damage or on the dream?
Thank you for putting what I battle with also into words from 1 bipolar mum of 3 teenagers who is convinced and consumed with quilt daily that I’ve messed my most precious children up but then I also see how well they’re actually doing and maybe it’s not as bad as I often think and should try giving myself some self love…. Oh I don’t know… Thank you tho 💕
I think there are times when life throws us a chance to stop and look around. The goal during these precious times is to see those we love with eyes full of love. The guilt, the fear, the pain will be there on all of the days so that isn’t what to hold onto. Always remember that the line of greatness for parents should be a simple but deep one: if your teenagers are alive, safe, and most importantly unconditionally loved then you are doing perfectly. The children that are often considered the most successful are those that have parents who are trying. When kids see us trying they forgive most of our transgressions. Of course, this won’t stop them from driving us up the wall but at least it makes for an interesting ride. If you are worried about your kids then you are probably doing something exactly right.