Imperfect parenting is sometimes the best

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Kids on Christmas
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

I have long relied on the disclaimer, “I’m no parenting expert.”

That protects me from the kind of jinxy karma that will have your child knocking off a liquor store before the last brag about your child’s perfection leaves your lips. I will say, however, that I’ve gotten cocky since Boywonder turned 18, made National Honor Society and became an Eagle Scout. I realize that we are all just a work in progress but I feel like we did a pretty good job with him.

Good attributes

He’s a good boy, respects his elders, is kind to others, and helpful, brave, reverent and kind. Wait, that last part may be the Boy Scout oath. Anyway, I refer to him as our “trump card” and have teased that we can basically phone it in with our younger child, Girlwonder.

Nonetheless, she’s pretty sweet and we feel like our investment in her is paying off … so far. So now that I’ve bragged myself up as the world’s okayest mother, I think it’s important to keep it real.

Bad

I like to think my kids are good people because sometimes I was a bad parent. When they were very small I was not the selfless and ever-giving lady bountiful who never lost her temper. Oh, I started out that way most (some) days. I just couldn’t maintain that status for an entire 24 hour shift. There was a point, usually late in the day, when I would start to wig out just a bit.

The chaos and the cling would be too much. I would start to crack. The signs were there. Clenched jaw. Clipped speech. I called it the “Mother on the Edge Warning System.”

The children eventually learned that when someone is clearly about to lose her grip on Jesus and sanity, you might want to back down and back off just a bit. Boywonder, in that respect, will make a wonderful husband.

On point

He can sense and smell the crazy coming like a dog on point. Much like dealing with a crazed animal, he knows to extend his hand, offer food or consolation, and not make eye contact. Learning to read people and respond accordingly is a valuable life skill. You’re welcome. When I got busy (or lazy) and didn’t feel like making dinner, you learned to cook and fend for yourself.

You’re welcome

I didn’t dig through your athletic bag, back seat, or bathroom floor to find your dirty uniform and wash it for you. As a result you learned to shake it out, spray it with air freshener, and call it your “lucky shirt” before wearing it again. You also learned to be responsible for your things. You’re welcome.

Self responsibility

When we forgot to pick you up after extracurricular activities — twice — you learned to handle yourself in (minor) emergencies, stay calm, and use your backup plan. I know I’m reaching with this one and I truly am sorry about that (oh my precious second born child) but you really handled yourself well. We’re proud of you and you’re welcome.

When I was quite possibly the worst scout/4-H/club mom ever and didn’t micromanage every aspect of your involvement, you learned to keep schedules and keep track of your commitments and requirements. You made strides and met steps sometimes to my utter astonishment. You earned those badges fair and square and you learned to believe in and monitor yourself. You’re welcome.

Lessons learned

When we gave you chores that involved leaving, breathing animals and watched you slog through ice, rain, sleet and snow to care for them. You learned that ownership of life involves responsibility for that life and that they need you no matter how cold, wet, or tired you were.

I like to think you will remember the funny, cuddling, caring mother who loved you with her whole heart and being from the moment you were born. I also know that you will remember, and one hopes, laugh, over all the mistakes and missteps we made along the way.

You were the best thing that ever happened to us and the finest gifts we’ve ever received. We did our best.

I also know that in some ways my moments of bad parenting made you a better person. You’re welcome.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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