Accepting the child you did not expect, letting go of trying to be the "perfect parent"
Take off the idealist goggles.Looking at, seeing, and accepting your child, yourself, and your situation AS IS, is the first step toward a more fulfilling parenting journey. So often we are at war with reality, with what is, whether or not we know it. Acceptance is the first step and by far the most important one in moving toward health and wholeness. As parents, few of us thought about what it would actually be like to raise, guide, and nurture children of different ages and their unique strengths and weaknesses. We just thought: “ we are having a baby.” And that baby probably came with an image of a certain child(boy or girl) happy healthy cooing baby who just needs our unconditional love, and we felt overflowing with that unconditional love as we were expecting this imaginary child or “baby” to come to this world and into our arms.
Few of us knew what we are really in for. It might have hit you at any point of your parenting journey. Shock or disappointment might have showed its ugly rear the moment your baby was born, or even before. Perhaps you really wanted and imagined a “baby girl” dressed in cute outfits, when you realized you are having a boy. Or perhaps it came as a child with disabilities. Or you might be one of those parents who came to experience the shock of the unexpected when your child was older. Perhaps you realized that your child is not meeting their milestones when they are “supposed to”, or you might have realized at some point that you have a shy timid anxiety prone girl, when you always imagined raising a “strong, confidant one.”
No matter when or how it hit you, I feel your pain. I know you felt not only the pain and grief of losing “your imaginary child” but also tremendous guilt and shame about even having these thoughts and feelings. I imagine you felt lonely; scared to admit to yourself, let alone another human being about how you are feeling. So you just push them away as much as you could and try to do your best as a parent. Of course, you love your child with all your being, of course you would do anything for them and cannot imagine your life without them. But you are also human, as a human we are complicated complex and flawed beings who can never be perfect and neither can our children. And that is the first step accepting our humanness, accepting that we are not perfect, accepting that no matter how much we love our kids we will make mistakes, small ones and big ones. Accepting that at times we might feel like we made a mistake by even having children. Accepting that our child is a unique human being who might not match our dreams. To let go, to say goodbye to our “dream baby” is a loss. We will feel grief but until we do that we will be hunted by its ghost whether or not we are consciously aware of it. So say goodbye to your perfect child say goodbye to the perfect parent and accept who you are, who your child is in all its glory and flaws. And it is only then that we can move forward to an imperfect but authentic journey to grow ourselves as parents and help our kids grow into their healthy authentic selves.