The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

The Burden of Being Perfect

What a burden for today’s children to bear.  They have to be

perfect in every way in order to be acceptable to their  parents.

I wonder what would happen to these parents if the children  were

given  the choice and chose to be born only to  perfect  parents.

That would certainly solve the population problem.  I have  never

met a perfect parent.  Have you?

As a matter of fact, I am happy to  say, I have never met  a

perfect  person.  I do not think one exists.   Our  imperfections

are  what  make us unique, interesting and human.   Otherwise,  I

suspect  we would all be robots.  But maybe that is what  parents

want:  Perfect Child Robots.  Children who would never give  them

any  trouble.  Such children would never move from the spot  they

were assigned, would never speak for themselves, would never take

a risk, would never get sick, would never have a disagreement  or

argument, would never have a physical imperfection,  would  never

think  for themselves,  would never make a mistake,  would  never

get less than an A,  would never be different from other  perfect

children.  In other words, would be quite dull and unexciting  to                  

be  around.  Like being with a robot.  If you have seen one,  you

have  seen  them  all.  Thank goodness, you  have  not  seen  one

because  they  do not exist.  Life is more exciting  than   that.

Apparently,  however,  there are some adults who do  not  believe

this  and keep demanding perfection in their children.   They  do

not  want  excitement.  They want  predictability.   Since  their

children   cannot   be  perfect,  the  parents  are   doomed   to

disappointment and the children are doomed to failure. 
Recently a 20 year old girl who seemed perfect in every  way

wrote  to  Ann  Landers  stating that she  wanted  to  die.   Her

reasoning was that she had the best of everything, but she  says:

“I want to die young with all the chips in my corner.”  Obviously

perfect  parents giving a perfect child a perfect life  does  not

always  produce someone who has zest for life.  What it seems  to

produce  in this case, is a person who is not a  risk-taker.  She

wants  to  quit  while  she is  ahead,  never  having  faced  the

challenges  of life.  She has a fear of failure and she will  not

develop into the person she could be.
Erma  Bombeck  quoted a letter from another student  of  the

same  age  who was born with cerebral palsy.   “I  have  cerebral

palsy  and my mother has never accepted this, or as a result  me.

She  was given a child less than perfect and she curses me for  a

lot of things that were problems long before I came along.”   She

goes  on to say she has learned a lot from her handicap:  how  to

laugh, how to be understanding and accepting of people and how to

forgive  her mother.  She does not talk of dying.  She  talks  of

facing the next challenge.         

The mother of this girl would have been much happier if  she

had  taken  the advice of another mother of  a  less-than-perfect

child who wrote to Ann Landers.  She said that it is like wanting

all  of  your life to go to Italy.  You study the  language,  the

country the people.  The day finally comes and you fly to  Italy.

When you got off the plane, however, you discover you are not  in

Italy but in Holland.  You cannot go to Italy. You can curse  and

moan,  and  say  life is not fair, give up  and  feel  sorry  for

yourself.   Or  you can  say, “Great, I did not  plan  on  seeing

Holland  but  this could be a great adventure too. I  am  looking

forward to getting to know, understand and enjoy Holland.”   This

mother is going to enjoy the adventure, and excitement of raising

a  less-than-perfect child.  In the end, it is what life  is  all

about–zest,  joy, making mistakes, learning and facing the  next


We parents of less-than-perfect children, which includes all

of us, do best when we become concerned with the inner growth  of

our  children and not with the outside facade.  As Emerson  says:

“What  lies  behind us and what lies before us are  tiny  matters

compared to what lies within us.”


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