Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect

by Rachael on June 11, 2013

Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.


Among the many big surprises that came with becoming a parent was how it transformed my desire to do good. Doing good no longer seems abstract or remote. It is immediate, urgent, and real: something to be done with these people right here.

L and the Gnome
The stakes are so high, and I’m hardly the best model. Indeed, seeing just how far I am from my own ideals was another of the big surprises of parenting. I want my children to be kind, but I am often unkind. I want them to be gentle, but I often lose my temper. I want them to be generous, but my goodness how often I wallow in self-pity.

The stakes are high, so every time I screw up, I remind myself: Seven times knocked down, eight times get up.

It’s an old Zen saying, and I like it because it encourages me to forgive myself without absolving me of responsibility. Also, it reminds me that I need not be a model of perfection, or even try to be. Who’s perfect? Why not instead show my children what it means to be a human being — vulnerable, imperfect, and with the great determination to let go of her unkindness, bad temper, and self-pity?

These days, this letting go sometimes means that I stop myself from yelling even in the middle of a sentence. “I’m going to take three breaths,” I announce, and I do, and then — miraculously, it seems — I am able proceed without yelling. Or, in the midst of some ridiculous struggle with L, I say, “Let’s do a do-over,” and we start all over again — getting dressed, washing hands, or whatever it was we were fighting about — without strife. In fact, do-overs are often fun — we sometimes even laugh!

I want my children to be steadfast. I want them to be resilient. I want them to be large with possibility. And so I practice seven times knocked down, eight times get up.

As long as I give myself fully to this practice, perhaps I already am the parent I want to be.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read submissions by the other carnival participants (posts will be live and updated no later than the afternoon of June 11):

  • My little gastronomes — “I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn’t turn out quite as she’d imagined.
  • Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
  • Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
  • A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
  • I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
  • The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
  • I Only Expected to Love … — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
  • They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
  • Parenting Human BeingsErika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
  • Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids … — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
  • A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
  • Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on
  • The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
  • Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
  • How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
  • How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
  • My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
  • Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
  • Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
  • 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
  • 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
  • Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
  • The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
  • Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
  • The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
  • What my daughter taught me about being a parentMrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
  • Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
  • Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
  • I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
  • How I Ended Up Like My Tiger Mom With Peaceful Parenting — Theek at The Laotian Commotion somehow ended up like her Tiger Mom, even though she purposely tried for the complete opposite as a peaceful parent.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

mrs green @littlegreenblog June 11, 2013 at 7:19 AM

Goodness, how humbled I felt when reading your post. You really are a wise mama, a wise woman who is teaching your children some valuable tools to get through life. I get angry so easily and it’s so ugly – forgiving myself feels light years away so kudos to you for achieving this and for moving through your parenting journey with such grace. x
mrs green @littlegreenblog recently posted… What my daughter taught me about being a parent


Rachael June 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM

You are too kind. Because I get angry easily, too. But one of my early realizations was that hoping never to be angry again is futile, because anger is inevitable. The best I can hope to do is to be skillful when my anger arises.


Jessica @ Crunchy-Chewy Mama June 11, 2013 at 8:29 AM

Thank you for the reminder that we can always — always — take a deep breath and start over!
Jessica @ Crunchy-Chewy Mama recently posted… Parenting in the land of compromise


Rachael June 11, 2013 at 10:24 PM

Yes! And the deep breath really does help.


Sheila Pai @ ALivingFamily June 11, 2013 at 8:59 AM

“Seven times knocked down, eight times get up.” That is such a helpful perspective. Your whole piece about not being perfect is so on point with who I am and how I am striving to parent. I just said that very thing — “Who wants to be [perfect]?” — when I was talking about practice not making perfect but making better communication in my relationships, family and life. I don’t want to seek perfection but the full expression of all that I am as a human being and to witness all that my children are. This nurturing of connection to self and others is how I seek to sprout peace in the world. As I am able to live, I am able to show my children how to live. My example is all I have. Those are the stakes you mention, and, yes, they are high. Thank goodness we have others like you to share stories of the journey so we don’t feel so alone.


Rachael June 11, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Deep, deep, down, I still wish I were perfect, I guess because I imagine that with perfection, all of my difficulties would fall away. Sounds absurd when I write it all out, but alas, it’s true.


Becky June 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM

I’ve also found how important mirroring is in parenting. I love that saying! Being human, who is always trying to improve, is the best model (the only one, in fact.) Thank you for your inspiration!
Becky recently posted… How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days!


Rachael June 11, 2013 at 10:31 PM

And thank goodness that perfection isn’t required, right?


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama June 11, 2013 at 12:13 PM

I love that saying! I like that you can stop mid-yell and announce your intention – I’m going to start practicing that so I can model for Kieran what I’m hoping he will learn, too.


Rachael June 11, 2013 at 10:30 PM

For now, it’s the best I can do, and, to be clear, I certainly don’t manage to do it all the time. Of course, it would be better if I didn’t yell at all to begin with. I’m starting to believe that (maybe?) I really can let go of yelling.


Mercedes June 11, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Yes! I love this. As my children grow I hope to be able to model the same for them. And you know, sometimes I think that people say “modeling” as if it were a conscious act that they are putting on for the benefit of their child’s learning. It’s good to see that you are “modeling” and actually benefitting yourself! Thanks for sharing.
Mercedes recently posted… My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins


Rachael June 11, 2013 at 10:40 PM

I think it’s especially helpful for children to see that having it all figured out is *not* a requirement for responsible adult life. We’re still learning, too!


Lauren @ Hobo Mama June 12, 2013 at 4:29 AM

Love this! I need that phrase in my life, and your examples of putting it into use are so wise and practical. I want to practice breathing and do-overs now as I hear that phrase in my head.
Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted… Wordless Wednesday: Six-year-old smile


Kate (HereNowBrownCow) June 14, 2013 at 9:26 AM

I’m going to try the 3 deep breaths! You are so right, we don’t need to model perfection, but we can at least try to model kindness and compassion. I love the saying, thanks for sharing!


Melissa June 16, 2013 at 5:23 PM

Hi Rachael – Saw this essay about practice and thought of your post:
Melissa recently posted… The Discipline of Doing


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