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An Open Letter To The Mom With The "Perfect" Kid

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Dear Mom With The "Perfect" Kid:

If you're worried I might be talking about you, I probably am. If you're not sure, imagine the following situations: a harried parent struggles to deal with an unruly kid, a fellow mom's toddler is going through a biting phase and is at a loss, or a dad relays his desperation over the fact that his infant just won't sleep. If you smile to yourself, either discreetly or obnoxiously, and think, "I don't have to worry about that because my child is perfect," then you, dear smug mom, are, in fact, a smug mom. And now that we've established who you are, I have a few things I'd like you to know. You may want to sit down.

First of all, I want you to know that I'm happy for you. No, really! I am! And I I think you should be proud of all the work you have done to raise your child right. The consistency required to accomplish such a feat is tremendous and exhausting. Then there's the schedules, the extra-curricular activities, and everything you've done to develop their palate, keep them safe, broaden their minds, and enrich their lives. Everything you have contributed in the making of this well-rounded, fascinating, polite, well-behaved, positive, adaptable yet principled child should be congratulated and celebrated. I'm not being even a little bit sarcastic, either. I mean every word! Parenting is hard and I think we need to take our victories when and where we can. We should be supporting each other and willing to learn from one another.

But please, smug parent, don't confuse good luck with good parenting.

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This isn't contradictory to supporting your efforts in the slightest, because it's obvious you've put in a lot of hard work. But you did luck out in that your hard work was put into a child who was receptive to it.

If you're a mom to a particularly young child, too, then I especially ask that you tone the smugness down a tad. I know that a week feels like an eternity with a very young child and so any habit is, to your mind, set in stone. But as a "more seasoned" mom (who still has a lot to learn, mind you) let me assure you that so much will change, and that can include, unfortunately, a sunny disposition to a stormy one. The younger your child is the more time they have to transform.

For example, I was ever-so-haughty about the fact that my 1-year-old son would eat anything I put in front of him. And in my arrogance I made sure people knew that, as parents, you just have to give kids a variety of healthy foods to encourage adventurous eating. Now, this is excellent advice and all the experts agree, but, as it turns out, excellent advice does not a foolproof plan make. My son is 7 now and has had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich literally every day for five and a half years.

Again, do not confuse good luck with good parenting.

Your hard work is showing some great dividends right now, but so too is your luck.

Generally speaking, good parenting goes a long way towards making sure your kid turns out all right. So when I talk about luck I'm talking more often about "rough patches" or problem areas. And I encourage everyone to consider factors outside of themselves, of which there are many. A lot of people utilizing the same parenting techniques on a different child will get wildly different results. Just as we shouldn't confuse good luck with good parenting, we shouldn't confuse bad luck with bad parenting, either.

Because, yes, we are working the mold these mini-humans, but they are, in fact, mini-humans. They are individuals with their own thoughts, personalities, goals, and priorities. Individuals upon whom we are not the sole influencers, and it's hubris to think otherwise. The great wide world will play a part in shaping your child, and sometimes that's a great thing! There are lots of inspiring, positive people, books, philosophies, and places that will serve your child in ways you cannot. Other times, well, those outside influences will only derail even your most solid of parenting plans.

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You ever see those news items that come up every now and then about large animal trainers? The trainer forms incredible bond with the creature and brilliant and painstakingly trains it to be tame. Then, one day, the aforementioned large animal with big pointy teeth acts like a large animal with big pointy teeth, and the trainer is lucky to make it out alive. And the unfortunate incident is almost never the result of a trainer mistake. It's just that you can't train a large animal with pointy teeth to not be exactly who they are, no matter how good dedicated and talented a trainer you are.

Parenting is like that, minus the whole "narrowly escaping death" thing (usually). These smaller animals with less pointy teeth are their own creature with their own instincts and it is as much luck as training prowess that allows everything to run smoothly. That's not on you: that's life.

My point? Be be proud, dear mom, but not smug. Your hard work is showing some great dividends right now, but so too is your luck. And while your hard work will continue, you never know if or when your luck will run out.