We love our kids so much! And in our efforts to show them the best life possible, we often feel an immense pressure to hold tight to our kids and to create the perfect parent child relationship.
And yet… that struggle to keep the parent child bonds strong can bring so much angst and sometimes even heartbreak. When do we let go? When do we hold on tighter? There aren't simple answers to these questions about how to guide our kids toward adulthood.
Today I'm sharing my own struggles to maintain the perfect relationship with my son, and what it's taught me about expectation, love and bonding.
Moms, I want to free you to discover a beautifully imperfect relationship with your kids–one that doesn't have to be perfect to be good.
How My Relationship with My Son Began
I gave birth to my son during a very sad, lonely, and depressing part of my history. It was probably the worst time to be having a child and yet this child was nothing but a blessing to me. I would often whisper to him, “You saved my life.”
And my life he was.
Hardly another person held him. He stayed in my arms, I held him close in my sling, and he slept by my side. He was happy, so happy, and his smile lit up my life every day.
Yes, I just knew we'd be the best of friends. We would have the perfect relationship.
Three years later, on the eve of my next Caesarean, I held my son in my lap, pulling him close to me. It was the last time that it would be just us. I even have a picture of us, sitting there on my bed. It gives me tears now as I remember this moment. His face held no smile but showed deep thought. It was like he knew that everything was about to change.
And change it did. He became the “big brother,” and now I had an infant to care for. But interestingly, it was not the birth of my daughter that brought about the biggest changes.
It was my son and his growing personality.
Our Mother Son Relationship Began to Change
About at the age of 6 or 7 we started seeing him evolve. His happiness, his light heartedness began to disappear. My in-laws would comment at how he was “exactly like his father.” My friends laughed and said the same thing.
Now I'll have you know my husband is one of the hardest working and selfless men I know, and I am nothing but proud that my son has this example.
But also true is that my husband is very much my opposite.
Whereas I love sunshine and beaches, he loves cold and woods. I love people and bonding, and he craves solitude. I am flexible and adaptable, while he is methodical and habitual.
And the thought of my son's smile fading into a deep, brooding, contemplative (somewhat cranky) expression; the funny little chatter turning into protective silence; his adaptability grow into firm opinions and judgements…well, it made me panic.
And there was nothing I could do.
My son was growing up, becoming who he was, exhibiting stronger and stronger traits as time went on. He was retracting into himself. He was hesitant to share feelings.
And as I watched him go through this metamorphosis, I struggled and struggled to keep him close.
“What are you thinking? Tell me now!”
“How can you say that?!”
“Tell her you're sorry.”
“Don't do that again!”
The hundreds of pages of parenting books…the hours and hours of reasoning…the pools of tears on both parts…the letters I have written him, the cards I have given him…”I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I just want us to be close.”
My friends, as I write this I have tears streaming down my cheeks, because looking back I realize something so important and so profound: I was mourning. I am mourning.
I am mourning something that I have not lost.
Why The Perfect Parent Child Relationship Does Not Exist
Simply put, perfect–even a perfect parent child relationship–does not exist.
And not only does it not exist but it can be an enemy.
I fell in love with this concept when I first heard it. So many times I have let perfectionism immobilize me, or keep me from reaching a “good” goal; a realistic goal.
And yet, look at what I've had in front of me this whole time: Not a “perfect” relationship with my son, but a darn good one.
Sometimes I worry about the things he doesn't tell me, and then I overhear him tell his friend, “My mom is my diary.”
I often feel bad about not having the ultimate dream relationship, and then I see this child hug me every day and pull his sleeping bag into our bedroom every night to sleep on our floor, just to be near us.
He hates when I go to bed early because he wants to “talk and draw” with me and do that thing we do each night.
He wants to hug me in the morning; he calls it “huggie monster.”
He wants to put his head on my shoulder when he's tired.
Perfect is the enemy, I repeat.
It lies and tells you that you aren't enough. It tells you to get angry, or to feel unworthy. It is the reason behind unreasonable expectations, for yourself and others.
It causes us to yell at our children and to yell at each other. It causes us to be disappointed, in them and in ourselves.
My search for the perfect parent child relationship caused me to not be grateful for the truly beautiful and unique thing I had right in front of my eyes.
It caused me to mourn, when I absolutely didn't need to.
Letting Love Guide Healthy Parent Child Relationships
When I can focus on relational closeness instead of perfect attachment, I find myself slowly settling into my imperfect relationships with my kids.
When I can ditch the idea of creating the “perfect” parent child relationship, and instead choose to love them through this messy process of growing up, that's when I'm discovering freedom and peace in my parenting.
Colossians 3:14 describes love as “a perfect bond of union.” And in Ephesians 4:1-5, the Bible also tells us that this process of loving through the imperfect is how God calls us to grow our everyday relationships.
Mom, be inspired by this! Be encouraged! Where you see relationship imperfections, look for the opportunities to love your kids through them, believing that a good parent child relationship isn't about seeking complete unity but relational closeness.
How have you discovered that “letting go of the imperfect” brings relationship closeness between you and your child(ren)? What have you learned about how a parent child relationship improves when love and grace guides daily interactions?
This post is linked up at Grace & Truth.