Here & there: When parenting all wrong might be all right

Composite image, St. George News

OPINION — My mom confided in me the other day that when September hit and all five of us kids went back to school, she wondered if she was smart enough to keep it all straight.

She was convinced that one of those school nights, as she crawled into bed well after 11 p.m. once dishes and laundry were done and shoes scattered about the house had been picked up, she’d realize that one of us had been left at school or gymnastics or soccer.

We’d be all alone, she said, standing in the dark. Cold. Hungry. Helpless. And mad.

This was before cell phones. There were five of us so it’s entirely possible that could have happened, but it didn’t. My smart and capable mother picked us up every day – on time, mostly.

But, from how she tells it now, she was always on the brink of doing it wrong. That’s how she felt.

“Mr. Mom” knew how hard the stay-at-home parent thing is. Before it was more commonplace for dads to be primary caregivers, Michael Keaton’s character tested himself in the carpool and scheduling gauntlet of parenthood in 1983.  And he got a lot wrong.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie is when Jack Butler (Keaton) attempts dropping his son off at school one morning.

“Mommy doesn’t do it like this,” his son tells him.

“We’re going to do it the Jack Butler method,” Butler replies.

A school volunteer politely approaches the car: “Hi, Jack. I’m Annette. You’re doing it wrong.”

Another parent driver pulls up beside him and, not so politely, informs him at the top of her voice: “South to drop off, Moron!”

While there may be a right and wrong way to drop off the kids at school, especially at the young boy Butler’s school, there is no definitive way to be a good parent. Sure, parents should provide a safe, loving environment for their children but none of us really seems to give ourselves credit for that.

Instead, we seem to judge ourselves and other parents on all the other stuff: dance lessons; school fundraisers; volunteering in the classroom; driving carpool on time; never going through the McDonald’s drive-thru (or being ashamed if we do); science fair projects; reading logs; PTA meetings and instrument practices.

If we don’t do it all – and do it perfectly – we’re somehow doing it wrong.

I wonder how my mom would feel about the movie “Bad Moms. She probably wouldn’t like it one bit because it’s crass. Oh mercy is it crass.

But she might like it if she heard only the distilled message: We are all bad moms (or dads) because we do make mistakes and we are going to be late for carpool or forget to do the scrapbook page our first grader was “assigned” to complete, and that’s OK.

There is honesty and power in admitting we can’t do it all.

We shouldn’t have to do it all and neither should other parents around us.  We should allow ourselves some slack and stop perpetuating the myth of perfect parenting because somewhere in all of the running around, carpooling, homework-supervising and task-mastering, it’s easy to feel like we are on the brink of getting it all wrong; except, more often than not, we really aren’t.

So as Mr. Mom’s Jack Butler advises, “It’s real easy to forget what’s important, so don’t.” Our kids will probably thank us for it.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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