When my son was 8 months old, he bit another child on a play date. I was embarrassed and felt responsible for my son's action. Would the other moms think I tolerated biting? It also terrified me to imagine what behavior loomed on the toddler horizon.
In our society, we spend a lot of time and mental energy worrying about being the perfect parent and raising perfect children. We want babies who do not cry and children who sit quietly and play happily. This illusion is dashed when your baby will not stop screaming in a restaurant, your 2-year-old smacks another child on the playground, or your 4-year-old refuses to potty train. Then we spend even more time and energy blaming ourselves. Was it my fault? Will everyone think I'm a bad mom? What could I have done differently?
Lately there have been several articles making the Internet rounds about "the good enough mother," a term coined by psychoanalyst and pediatrician Donald Winnicott who believed that a healthy mother/child relationship requires a mother who is not perfect but good enough. That is, a mother who provides her child a safe environment filled with love, attention, and security but then fails her child in small ways, enabling him to develop his own resources and resilience.
The good enough mother is not perfect. And in her humanity, she demonstrates to her children how to learn from mistakes, apologize and forgive, be disappointed, express frustration, and have faith that tomorrow will be better.
Although this theory is widely accepted in the field of psychology, we have a long way to go to convince mothers that this is true. And to enhance your child's development and your parental happiness, I think the concept of "good enough" should apply to another person: your child.
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