We all want to be our Best Selves for the children we care for. Certainly because this would create the best possible environment for our little ones, but also because when we’re our Best Selves, we enjoy our lives more.
In a perfect world, it seems like we’d be able to be our best selves all the time. We’d go gracefully through the day, and nothing would faze us. We’d know when to be firm and when to be flexible, we wouldn’t lose our tempers when our little boy poops in his pants for the fourth day in a row, right when that baby’s supposed to go down for her nap. We’d be fresh and gracious when our partner gets home from work, and when he asks what we did today, we’d have a list as long as our arm of things we’d accomplished. Right?
Well, only maybe. Actually, I’m going to go ahead and say No, that’s not what Being Your Best Self is about. Because if that IS what it’s about, what can we do except feel perpetually guilty about not being as good as we imagine that we could or should be? Instead, let’s put aside this mythical person who never messes up, who doesn’t get annoyed and who never loses their cool. Instead, let’s make this about us, and who we are, wherever we are right now in our lives.
So, how do we work on Being Our Best Selves, from where we are right now?
The first, and perhaps most important piece, is this: WHAT CHILDREN NEED IS NOT TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO IS PERFECT AS A ROLE MODEL, BUT TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO IS STRIVING TO BETTER HERSELF (OR HIMSELF).
When our children see us striving to be better, they also can strive to be better. This means making mistakes, then trying to learn from them. This means having to learn the same lessons over and over again, just like our children do. That’s part of what it is to be human. But when we come in with the attitude of, ‘Next time I’ll do better’ that is what can really be life-changing to our children. This act of striving is a huge piece of Being Our Best Selves for our children.
A mentor of mine told me and a group of women a story about this: she said that when she was a young mother, she and her husband had wanted things to be perfect for their kids. With this in mind, they never argued in front of their children. But then when their children grew up and embarked on serious romantic relationships of their own, they thought that if they argued, they had blown the whole relationship, or that it must be a ‘bad’ relationship. They had never seen their parents disagree on anything, and therefore they had never seen a model of how to argue in a healthy way so that both parties could benefit and grow.
I’m not saying that it’s a great idea to fight in front of your kids all the time, but what I’m saying is that it’s not only OK to be human, it’s preferable to be human! Life is full of disappointments and mistakes and times when you don’t do as well as you might have done. Teaching our children how to recover from mistakes, how to apologize when we don’t handle things well, how to pick up the pieces and keep moving, with the attitude of “Next time I bet I’ll do better,” this is what can truly help our kids, and ourselves.