October 27, 2011


I firmly believe two things (okay, I believe in more than two things - the goodness of beer, clowns are evil, Blue Bell ice cream is the best thing on earth below 32 degrees, New Coke was a midget conspiracy - but I'm here to talk about these two):

Thing One: Practice doesn't quite make perfect but it helps.
Thing Two: There's nothing you can't do with the right amount of practice and the right tools.

The applicability is broad - playing the piano, carpentry, some artistic pursuit - but this is the way I think of parenting.

Sure, the tools are different. Instead and hammers and nails, or guitars, or cameras, you're armed with lessons you've learned through your life, the scars you proudly display or hide away, patience, hope, and love. And then you simply do the best you can. The unfortunate thing about parenting, though, is the only kind of practice you can do is on-the-job. There's no apprenticeship. The consequences of screwing up are greater. That's why no one's ever perfect at it. And by the time you think you have everything figured out, the nest is about to empty.

If you are a great parent, the one thing you can do to offset your own imperfection - and lack of practice - is to inspire awesomeness. I tell my kids they're capable of anything. To Owen, this means that I believe he can learn to fly and use x-ray vision. Mia's understanding is a bit more realistic but she still doesn't believe me. And at her age I'm not sure I would have either. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have believed it ten years ago. It's a realization that comes with age. Just as you're figuring out that you won't have the time to do everything no matter how much practice you have.

Posted by Chris at October 27, 2011 7:42 AM

You might want to look into what the founders of Blue Bell do with their money. It might change your opinion...

With one kid applying to college, and another that is 15, I can look back and say that I don't have a clue how we raised two kids into responsible young adults. When people ask me for advice, I got nothing. We made it up as we went, and if we had to do it again, I'm not sure the lessons learned with the first two are really that applicable.

Posted by: COD at October 27, 2011 8:55 AM

I still tell Mandy she can be all she wants to be. And I believe in her. She is 35 and the most fabulous woman I know!

Posted by: Maribeth at October 27, 2011 8:58 AM

As a teacher, I deal with the kids who think they can do anything a lot. But they are missing an integral part of the belief. The belief and inspiration isn't wrong, I think we just forget an integral part of it. I am all for encouraging children, please just include "with LOTS of hard work and dedication" in your "you can be/do anything." Kids don't put that together themselves that being able to do something requires work and practice and effort, hence the misguided sense of entitlement we see in so much of kids today. Amen to practice.

Posted by: sara at October 27, 2011 10:20 AM

My wrestling coach used to hate the term "practice makes perfect." He didn't believe it to be true, because if you practiced things the wrong way, when you needed to perform, you'd also do it wrong.

He preferred "PERFECT practice makes perfect." I love that quote.

Posted by: Daddy by Default at October 28, 2011 12:09 AM

I'm a fan of effort rather than perfection. Because I've learned that there are somethings you will just suck at no matter how much you practice (for me it's spelling and cooking, for my daughter it's math).
Outcome is something we can't always control and I stress that. You can be the best parent in the world and your kid can still end up in prison. Or you can practice math flash cards for an hour every night and still get a D on the test.
I always ask the question, of myself and my kids, 'did you try your best?'
I'll take 15 minutes of honest effort over 30 minutes of lathargy any day.

Posted by: fauve at November 1, 2011 10:33 AM