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Being a parent is never easy. At least, it never is in our house.

At various times, my husband and I have the “why is this so hard?” conversation. Luckily — so far — only one of us is in that mood at any given time, so the other one can soothe instead of suggesting adoption as a way out.

“We love our children. It’s not that bad. Remember that this is just a phase…”

Is it by chance that my husband is downstairs, on the cusp of 2011, playing “Stupid Girl” by the Rolling Stones? Really, really loud?

But parenting is like nothing else in that it always matters. I can’t think of another job, even the one where you sit next to the red button waiting for the president’s call, where you have such power to screw up — and such power to inspire — a single life.

Today my son noticed a magazine that came in the mail: Parenting for High Potential from the National Association for Gifted Children.

“That really doesn’t make much sense,” he told me. “I can imagine some things that parents can do to really screw up a kid, like, you know, if they were really mean to them or they didn’t let them learn anything. But I can’t think of a single thing a parent can do to make a kid do better.”

[Just at this moment, there is an orange and white cat sitting on my lap, purring, looking up at me with a soul-searching look a love and admiration. Who says they aren’t spawn of the devil?]

My son had no idea what an effect such a simple statement could have on a parent. I spend way too much time — in all aspects of my life — trying to figure out how I can do better. I ponder how I can shrink my belly, how I can be a better friend, a better wife, and — of course — a better mother, more often than I care to admit.

Part of this is the perfectionist mind-set, which is why parents like me need magazines like Parenting for High Potential, to remind us how crippling perfectionism can be.

But part of this is just the process of being a mother, taking on a role that no one could warn you about.

[Now my husband is blasting “Under my Thumb,” so that’s how things are going…]

I periodically read something along the lines of “things I need you future parents to know about parenting” by some other Mommy Blogger. Fellow bloggers, we are wasting our finger power! Future parents will never understand until it is they standing there in front of that psychotic 2-year-old, thinking, How did I get myself into this?

As parents, we take on an awesome (and I mean that in the real sense, not in the slang sense) responsibility: What we do with, for, and to our children will last their lifetimes. Our children, just their fact of being, will forever change our relationships with our spouses and with ourselves. This really is bigger than being president of your corporation, bigger than a Grammy, bigger even than winning this week’s church bingo game.

So my resolution, this year and every year, is to be a better mother, to be a better partner to my husband, and to let myself be better all around. And how I need to do this is by letting go: I need to let go of the idea of that my children will ever be perfect, that my husband will ever be perfect, and that I will ever be perfect.

The best we can be is good, and that’s something we can work a lifetime on.

Every day, every month, and every year, we get the chance to try again.

It’s an awesome responsibility.

ps: Once you’re done feeling guilty, and if you like that devil’s spawn sitting in your lap, go visit the best cat videos of the year. You’re worth it.

Posted in Parenting.

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