“Art is all just perfectly imperfect.
Once the word Art enters the description of what you’re up to, it is almost like getting a hall pass from perfection. It thankfully releases us from any expectation of perfection.”

 – Nicholas Wilton in Brene Brown’s, Daring Greatly.

Parenting is Art. And that “releases us from any expectation of perfection.”

How freeing is that?! There is no ump waiting to thunder, “You’re out!” No one is eager to dub you the weak link. Perfect is not expected of you or anyone else.

There is no perfect to measure against. No metric for the perfect parent.

We get ourselves in such a mess when we think parenting is a puzzle to solve, a code to crack.

We get stressed – and our kids sense it. We feel guilt and lash out. We try to do everything – chore charts so they become responsible, activities so they learn social skills and teamwork, academics so they don’t miss some obscure future opportunity. We set up systems of consequences and rewards to encourage obedience, but they feel like bribery.

We know this matters, this parenting. We are shaping little minds and hearts and we want to get it right.

We are wise to learn from the experience of others because there are days when we can’t see past the next naptime. So we turn to the parenting experts. We read books and listen to podcasts, and search for inspiration on Pinterest.

We do well to remember, not even the experts have perfected this parenting thing.

There is no magic bullet that will make it easier. No method that will guarantee success. Hard work is hard. In parenting, as in golf. You have to keep showing up and giving your best to stay in the game.

Beyond that, the metaphor breaks down. In golf, you are trying to perfect a swing, a skill.

Parenting is not that.

Neufeld and Mate’s bestseller, Hold On to Your Kids, reminds us that parenting is about relationship, about staying available and present in your kids’ lives. It is not a skill to perfect or a method to master.

“The modern obsession with parenting as a set of skills to be followed along lines recommended by experts is, really, the result of lost intuitions and of a lost relationship with children previous generations could take for granted. That is what parenthood is, a relationship. … The secret is to honor our relationship with our children in all of our interactions with them.”

And relationship is always art. More dance than equation.

Kim Payne of Simplicity Parenting says most kids need less, not more activities. They need more empty space in their agenda. Less stuff and more time allows boredom to usher in creative play. Scheduling fewer activities allows families space to breathe and connect. Or reconnect.

Before you rush off to overhaul your entire schedule, remember habits are best changed slowly, one at a time.

I want to encourage kids to help at home. Adding one responsibility to their morning routine is working better than my previous attempts with lengthy chore charts (The kids liked the charts. They just didn’t do the chores.)

Relationship means presence, working with them. When I ask the kids to help me bake, they are usually engaged and helpful. When I bark orders from a distance, I meet resistance.

In the end the specifics of what works best for your family, and one child within your family, is a creative process. Your child changes, you change. You grow together.

On occasion, insight from the experts will come at just the right time and will give you the perspective you need. Often, coffee with a friend or a long run will serve just as well.

Stick with it. Keep dancing. Together. Even when your toes get stepped on.

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