THEY say that if you pay attention, your children will teach you as much or more than you can possibly teach them. I was reminded of this last night while watching various acceptance speeches during the Oscar’s…One gentleman, fighting back tears, thanked his wife and infant daughter…”who will surely teach me more than I could ever possibility teach her.”

My children are grown. They are living independent lives of their own creation. Naturally as a parent, I had ideas of just exactly what their lives should look like. While I am anything but disappointed, their lives have turned out differently than I imagined. I realize more and more  that one of the most sacred lessons my children have taught me is to let go: let go of expectations, plans…shoulds, coulds and so many many “have too’s”.  My children have taught me that perfectionism isn’t a measure of happiness or success. They have taught me to care as much about my own needs as the needs of others. They have taught me that the stress and anxiety manifested through out my internal being isn’t a desirable trait or a cherished outcome by those I care about most. They have taught me that perfect for them doesn’t have me a wild wreck trying to get every last detail in order. They have convinced me that my stress, no matter what wonderful thing is the  justification, is never a gift for them. They would rather have a relaxed me, than a perfect scenario.

LETTING GO OF OUR ADULT CHILDREN

BY ARLENE HARDER, MA, MFT

A Perfectionist Mother Trying to Do Things Right:

“When I began motherhood, I was fairly liberal politically but fairly rigid in how I viewed my role as parent. This was partly the result of my temperament and partly the consequence of a childhood in which there were many “shoulds,” “oughts,” “rights,” and “wrongs.” Although I didn’t insist on spotless floors and neatly made beds, being a perfectionist permeated many facets of my parenting.

As a child I never questioned whether I was being asked to be perfect; my siblings were also perfectionists in one way or another. Our parents’ high standards left little room to question the reasons for their rules and values – an attitude typical for that generation. When a child was told to jump, she was expected to say, “How high?” and not, “Why?”

As a recovering perfectionist I can see why perfectionism is a common feature of the human character. After all, perfectionists give the best they have to offer. You can generally count on them to do what they say they’ll do, even if it means giving up their own needs to be sure you’re satisfied. On the other hand, I now realize that the standards of perfectionists are usually those others consider “right,” not necessarily those the perfectionist herself would choose – if she could freely follow the dictates of her own heart.”

While raising our most cherished sons and daughters, we teach them to follow their hearts. One of life’s greatest lessons we as their parents/role models/advocates need to learn, is to follow our own…

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Rain Again???

February 21, 2011

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Though I still feel like I have the unrelenting hopeful spirit of a high school graduate, my 40th reunion is just around the corner. OMG! There are pictures floating thru internet space of me looking like one of Julie Andrew’s charges in Sound of Music. I think that yellow dress was actually made out of an old curtain my grandmother was throwing away.

I rarely think of high school. When I do I break out in a cold sweat. Those were certainly the most awkward years of my life…now, why would I want to revisit them in any way, shape, or form?

I was a geek. Trust me. 6’ tall, 110 lbs. in wet pegged Levi’s and 2 lbs. of hairspray. Not one boy, not one, gave me a second look. Who could blame them. I was taller than 99% of them and I had “DESPERATE” written all over me. When I saw an opportunity to trick a brand new guy, obviously lonely and awkward himself, into coming to a party at my house, I took it.  I told him that all my friends would be there and I would love to introduce him.

When he accepted my invitation, I almost died on the spot. I had never been invited to a high school party and certainly never hosted one. I went to the one BFF I had and told her what I had done. We had 2 days to accomplish a guest list and something that resembled a pre-planned gathering.

Poor Schmuck. He arrived on time and must have thought that;  A. He was at the wrong house (hence not another car in sight),  B. The party had been canceled,  or C. He had been duped. I’m pretty sure that when he walked in to find only me, my BFF and collectively our 3 younger brothers, he knew he had been shanghaied. What high school boy doesn’t come to a party in hopes of finding a keg, cheer leaders and an atmosphere of reckless abandon.

Okay, now get this. Monopoly, with half the players pre-pubescent…not exactly a testosterone fest; my mother wearing her best apron enthusiastically serving trays of warm chocolate chips cookies… looking nothing like a cheer leader; and milk for dipping  those cookies instead of a plastic cup of ‘Bud’ from a freshly tapped keg.

He stayed anyway. The ambush was successful. I had a boyfriend!


For two years he was my EVERYTHING. I couldn’t imagine a day without him. Now 40 years later, I don’t know where he is or what he is doing.  The class of ‘71 has diminished in numbers. There are those who have passed away and those who can’t be found. There are those looking for misplaced friends and soul mates, and those recalling long forgotten memories. Countless pictures are surfacing that prove 40 years is a long, long time.

So in deliberating “to reunion or not to reunion”, the attending column would definitely have more weight if I thought  no one would notice I am in-fact the same geek only now nearly 60 and an inch shorter(can we say osteoporosis); my size 4 Levi’s have been replaced by the size 14’s, or that I look somewhat like the Shar pei Puppy version of my senior picture?

One thing 40 years has taught me is that life is short and unpredictable. There are grown-up Black Tornado’s (that’s right, my mascot!), who back then, smiled at me in the hall and made my day…who included me in note passing in Social Studies and who sometimes joined my table of fellow geeks in the cafeteria. Now that I think about it there were about 500 other kids that probably felt much like I did…uncomfortable, unsure, uneasy.

We now know not one of us existed in pure form. Those were the thoughts of teen idolatry. Each of us was a mixture of thespian, geek, quarterback and cheerleader. The high school playing field has been leveled with time…we have all experienced loss, disillusionment, victories.  Some geeks are now secure, enjoying luxury. Others, for whom we predicted easy success, are still finding their way.

It turns out we are more alike than we are different. The differences are in the details. If we can remember our commonalities while revisiting familiar faces, shared memories and dreams, we may experience our high school years influenced more by the knowing of ‘what we were’ than ‘what we were not’.