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Entries in david willows (147)

The myth of Peter Perfect's parents

I keep returning to the idea of ‘good enough’ parenting, probably because I think I’m not.

Peter Perfect, on the other hand, was of altogether different stock.  A regular contestant in Wacky Races – the hit US late-60s children’s TV show in which eleven cars raced against each other in various road rallies, with each driver hoping to win the title of “World’s Wackiest Racer” – Peter drove the Turbo Terrific 9 and, despite the painful unreliability of his vehicle, lived up to his family name by never failing to congratulate poor Turbo on how well it was doing.

Looking on from the stands, I imagine that Peter’s parents were impossibly proud.  I also imagine that Peter’s positive and courteous outlook on life must, in some way or another, have stemmed from the good fortune of more-than-good-enough parenting.  After all, as we all know, perfect kids come from perfect parents.

Or do they?

Taking a moment to think about my own children, none of them are Peter and certainly none of them are perfect.  They’re all different, all loved, and all just regular kids – an apparently random mix of beauty, happiness and integrity, tainted with brokenness, fragility and more than a hint of selfish ambition.  In fact, thinking about it, they’re all just like me.

But doesn’t this just go to show that imperfection breeds imperfection?

Maybe, but the truth is, despite being a fan of Wacky Races as a young child growing up in the 70s, I never saw Peter’s parents watching from the stands.  They were apparently never there to congratulate him when things went well or support him when disaster struck.  If they existed at all, it is safe to say they were likely far from perfect.

And why should they be?  Step away from parenting for a while and consider almost any other human activity.  We understand that one can be a great teacher without being good at teaching every subject at every grade level.  Equally, it makes sense to us that one can be a great footballer without being good in attack and defense.  Yet, when it comes to parenting, I suspect that most of us feel the burden of having to be pretty damn good at every stage of the most ‘wacky’ race of all as we accompany our children along the road that leads from infancy into adulthood.

And here’s the point I want to make: as parents we discover along this treacherous path that we’re far better at some things than others.  Some of us excelled at coping with sleepless nights and then made a hash of reading stories at bedtime.  Some of us spared the time to teach our children to swim and eat their vegetables, but couldn’t then cope with the thankless task of providing structure and discipline to teenagers intent on ‘discovering themselves’.  Some of us were simply never there when it mattered, but ultimately found other ways of being a constant source of love.

If you’re a parent, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Some of us are strikers, some of us are goalkeepers and some of us are outstanding in defense.  But don’t for one minute think that you’ll ever be world-class in every position.  That’s the myth of Peter Perfect’s parents who, after all, were never written in to the story.