Parenting is about percentage, not perfection.  As parents we so often berate ourselves for not being the perfect parent in our endlessly diverse and unendingly complex dealings with our children.  We think there is this ideal parent that is our model for our interactions, and we are constantly striving to model and attain that ideal.

Of course, it never quite works that way in the nitty gritty give and take (so often more give than we can sometimes manage) of raising our children. Their so often unpredictable behaviors and contrary responses to our guidance and helpful  admonitions  help sustain a frustration level so much higher than we expect or want. But difficult though that may be, that is the way of it.

All those little beings  wandering around in our lives have not read the ideal child model that aligns with the ideal parent model. They have somehow managed to miss that particular chapter of education.  We both miss the ideal.

That is because the truth is we are not perfect; they are not perfect; we cannot be perfect; there is no perfection.  Perfection implies a flawlessness of attitude and behavior that is forever beyond us. It is beyond what it means to be human. Perfection is an idea that presupposes a world where everything works the way it is supposed to, a world where we always have the right course of action at our fingertips, a world where we never make mistakes.  That world is a fiction; we live in a messy, sloppy,  world with rough edges, a world that is ever unfinished, a world that is constantly changing.

There can  be no perfection in our ever changing, so often unpredictable and unexpected unfolding world.  We operate in that complex of change with the endless presence of risk and uncertainty making our way through life as best we can, and that “best” is far from perfection.

However much the lack of perfection is lamented, the reality is we are imperfect. Our children are imperfect. The world is imperfect, and that’s the way of it. The best we can get is  “some of the time” rather than “all of the time.”   And that brings us to percentages.  There is no 100% when it comes to being a mother or a father. There is only getting it right some of the  time, getting it wrong some of the time and working in the future to get it better.  The percentages of our success go up and down, and our lives and our children’s lives go on.

The surprising thing is that with our good intentions and our love for our children, so many of us get it “right” enough of the time that our children grow up and surprise us with how well they move on with their lives.  They amaze us with their ability to survive and move beyond our limits and foibles, especially our futile attempts to be “perfect.”

So, my advice is look to bettering your percentage of healthy, growing interactions with your children.  They will take it from there.


About The Practical Philosopher

I am a retired Philosophy professor. I taught philosophy for 43 years, and I would like to share some of what I have found pursuing the fascinating journey of philosophy.
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2 Responses to Parenting

  1. Richard Petrino says:

    Hi Bill, great blog as always. You contribute to so many in so many ways… in my view, while you may not be the perfect parent, you are the perfect friend. Rich

  2. Maria Katonak says:

    Hi Bill: Great concept, I am forwarding it to my daughter and son in law. Thanks! Maria K.

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