Imperfect Parenting on Purpose

I was in the doctor's office with my 15 year old daughter recently. Even though she had an appointment, we were told it was going to be a long wait. They were backlogged. So, we had to make the best of it.

I don't recall exactly how we passed the time, but there was some teasing, a lot of laughter, a bunch of goofiness, and some enjoyable repartee - as if we were two school pals hanging out together.

I realize this may be a strange scene for many parents.

In fact, it was somewhat startling to the office staff. They actually commented on how nice it was to see a mom and her teenage daughter getting along so well. Which we do…generally speaking. Do we get on each other's nerves sometimes? Absolutely! Are we incredibly different people? Heck yeah. But we find a way to make it work.

What's our secret?

First and foremost, I don't try to be perfect around her. If I've had a bad day, I show my frustration so that she can see that my life isn't perfect. On the other hand, If something really good happens, I dance around the room in glee! I show her my silly side too and we usually have a good laugh.

Honestly, I think our relationship works because we work at being real with each other. She knows I am hyper organized and I like to plan…a lot. So she teases me about that. I know she makes major messes and forgets things…a lot. So I tease her (and sometime yell) about that. Teasing each other is all in good fun…it's our way of acknowledging our differences and enjoying the unique qualities that we each bring to the table.

Don't mistake us for equals though. I am her parent, which means that I am in a position to guide her in certain things. She is starting to drive soon and I will certainly help her learn that skill because I have many years more experience. However, there are times when I know she is clearly the expert in the room. If something goes wrong with my iPhone, I know she is the best person to help me. Her phone is her life and I give her the chance to help me solve my tech issues.

When you are trying to be real as a parent, it can help to show that you don't always know the answers. Which is ok. She's taking geometry and - although I was always good at math - geometry was my nemesis. I just didn't get it. And I still don't. So when she asks for help, I'll try to understand the problem but usually my homework help ends up with me throwing my hands in the air and saying "Why don't you go ask dad?"

To be real for Ayla, I have to stay true to who I am. In other words, I haven't conformed who I am to meet her every need. I'm not The Giving Tree… I'm more The You-Can-Always-Depend-On-Me-But-You-Need-To-Learn-To-Do-Things-Yourself Tree.

As you can see, I'm not the perfect parent. I put my idiosyncrasies on display and I encourage my kids to be themselves too. Perhaps trying to achieve perfection as a parent is more trouble than it's worth. Maybe we can make better in-roads with teenagers by actively showing them we are - in fact- not perfect at all.