The End of Perfectionist Parenting

I had lunch with a few of my girlfriends yesterday, and after we spent an hour discussing summer plans, Fifty Shades of Grey (haven’t read it yet, but as soon as I do, I’m going to blog about it, believe me), and how we all need to have our drooping eyelids fixed, one of my friends pointed out how amazing it was that we hadn’t talked about our kids once. 


Two years ago, she said, our kids would have been the only topic of conversation.  Which prompted the question: What’s changed?  Is there, in fact, some sort of parental revolution taking place?


I, for one, am starting to think there is.  Maybe it’s just that our kids are getting older now, so we don’t need to be quite as involved in every aspect of their lives as we once were  Or maybe it’s that we’re getting older (gulp) and starting to mellow out a bit.  But either way, I’m sensing that the hyper-vigilance and obsessiveness that once defined parenthood for my generation is beginning to wane.


I’m noticing it in little ways.  For example, my daughter is playing volleyball at school and competing against fourth grade teams from other schools.  Often, the games are right after school at three p.m., or three-thirty.  A few years ago, my husband would not have missed one of her games for fear that she might score, or she might not score, or that she’d be disappointed in him for not coming, or maybe even for fear that he’d be labeled an uninterested father if he didn’t show up.   But now... it just doesn’t matter.  Yes, my daughter is disappointed that he hasn’t been to any of her games, but whatever.  She’ll live.  I explained to my daughter that Daddy has a job, and sometimes, that’s just more important.


I almost gasped when I wrote that just now.  Seriously.  I mean, not that long ago it would have been unthinkable to tell my kid that something else was more important than whatever she was doing.  But now... it feels okay.  In fact, it feels important to me that she does know that some things are more important than whatever she’s got going on.  And I’m not the only one.  Lots of parents don’t show up at games. 


And where it used to be that parents would jump at the chance to chaperone a class field trip, lately it seems that fewer people feel the need to accompany twenty-five kids to the Los Angeles Mission instead of getting done what they need to get done during the day.  Do their kids wish they went?  Depends on their age, I suppose, but probably some of them do.  But once again, there’s an “oh, well, you’ll survive” sense that I’m getting from parents, and I love it. 


It just seems to me that parents are reasserting themselves as individuals apart from their children, and that they’re letting their children know it.  No longer will we be held hostage by their wants and needs, because we’re realizing that it’s okay - it’s healthy - for them to sometimes not get what they want and need. 


As one of my friends put it at lunch yesterday, it’s as if parents are starting to recognize that we’re killing ourselves trying to be perfect, when just being good is good enough.