There Are No Perfect Parents

My career move into consumer science has put me unexpectedly in touch with human psychology.

And I love it.

I have gained so many insights into not only myself but also my relationships with others that I have become so much more comfortable in my own skin and confident in my approach to life. I’ve also come to deeply appreciate the value of gaining another thinking person’s reflection on the places where I’m stuck.

Andy and I sought out one such person in Dallas when we realized we’d shaken our toolbox completely empty when it came to our kids. We had been in so many parent-teacher conferences with little Graham and had seen first-hand the difference that approach makes in his confidence and well-being.

That’s where our lives intersected with Ms. Amy. Ms. Amy is a certified play therapist in Dallas.

::record scratch::

Play therapist? Yep, play therapist. A psychology professional who deals exclusively with kids under age 18. Let me go ahead and address some of my FAQ from friends & family who have discussed this whole “Ms. Amy” thing with us:

1. Graham is a perfectly normal preschool-aged boy, why would you take him to a counselor?

This has never been about fixing Graham. “Fixing” would imply that there was something wrong with Graham in the first place. No, what we needed was someone to help us understand Graham. And once she understood Graham, she then helped us diagnose what specifically is and isn’t working in our approach to parenting him. I think taking him to a play counselor says less about him as a little boy and more about me as a struggling parent.

2. Aren’t you worried about what Graham will think about being taken to a counselor when he’s old enough to understand? Will he label himself as a kid who needed counseling and carry that with him through life? 

I think we – as a society – need to shift our thinking about counseling, therapy & mental health as a whole. This hush-hush stigma that we have is perpetuating the shame that goes along with seeking help. There should never be shame about seeking out a healthier, well-adjusted, happier life. Period. To that end, Andy and I have committed to talk to Graham and Reid about the ugly stuff. The hard to talk about things. I don’t actually really count our month-long relationship with Ms. Amy as ‘the ugly stuff’ but you get the point maybe. Hiding these visits with her from him or others actually implies that there’s something there to be hidden. Hiding perpetuates shame. Shame begets more hiding. Time to break the cycle. Hence – I’m talking about it here!

Those are pretty much the two items that keep popping up. But you know what? I am so thankful that Andy and I took the steps to see Ms. Amy while we were in Dallas, because I just had to do a phone consult with her a few weeks ago.

Graham all of the sudden had a significant spike in separation anxiety about a month ago, and I placed a call to Ms. Amy. Before we got started on the current topic, she asked how Graham was and how we were doing after our big move. I told her that we still use all the tools that she gave us – even if we’re not perfectly consistent at it, we try really hard. She let me finish my thought, then interjected:

“Debbie, there are no perfect parents. There’s no such thing. What there are, are parents who love their children so much that they are willing to keep trying to do better the next time. And that’s what these children need.”

And it’s funny, you know? The “mommy wars” are real. And hurtful. We are all trying our hardest, and then we turn around and snipe another parent for not trying hard enough. Or for doing the wrong thing. Like it’s a black-and-white matter – a right-or-wrong answer. Like there are perfect parents. Instead of shaking our heads in 100% empathy and saying,

 “I know, it’s so hard, isn’t it?”


  1. Well said!

  2. Michelle says:

    Preaching to the converted! Amen, sister!

  3. Love it. You and Andy are great parents. :) I love your motto of talking about the tough stuff with the boys. Ben and I hope to have the same discussions with Claire.

%d bloggers like this: