Do you remember that scene in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown where Lucy parades out in her Halloween costume? You know the one. Black pointed hat. Green witch mask. All in all, it isn’t a great look. I mean, the frown is liable to slide right off of her face if it droops any lower.
And in her uniquely honest way, Lucy says, “A person should always choose a costume which is in direct contrast to her own personality.” Adults watching it laugh because Lucy is arguably the prickliest character on the show, and so the line is ironic. And kids watching it laugh because she has a big wart on her nose, and it looks funny.
The Perfect-Parent Mask
While the masks that we wear in our everyday lives may not be as evident and easy to spot as a giant, green witch mask, they can be just as real. And when the whole world is working hard to promote notions of what perfect parenting looks like, putting on a mask can be really tempting.
Perfect parents maintain a home that looks like this way and prep school lunches that look that way.
They raise kids who get these kinds of grades and make it to those kinds of colleges (because perfect parents only raise kids who go to college. Duh.)
Perfect parents discipline their kids this way and handle tantrums in public that way. Oh, who am I kidding? Perfect parents don’t have children who throw public tantrums, right?
The Mask We Want to Wear
When we try to navigate social pressures where parenting is concerned and compare our real (and really messy) lives with what we perceive in others, it’s easy to want to wear a mask. And like Lucy, we want to wear a mask that is in contrast to what we really are.
If our lives are chaotic, our home is a mess, our kids are in trouble, and our anxiety levels are through the roof, we want to put on a face that suggests the opposite.
But here’s the thing. Parenting isn’t meant to be done in a bubble where only the prettiest pictures make it to Instagram. Parenting is done in the trenches, right? And trenches aren’t built to support one person here, one person there. They’re supposed to be full of people who are working and fighting together.
Vulnerability v.s. Isolation
Widening our circles and learning to lean on other people isn’t easy because vulnerability can come at a cost. But so can trying to parent in isolation. Removing our masks isn’t easy.
Letting other people into places where they can see the truth of our lives and our parenting isn’t easy. Letting other people speak into our situations isn’t easy. But all of it is necessary.
We Are Better Together
And there is real truth to the notion that we are better together. We are better parents when we parent alongside other parents. When we lend our ideas, our encouragement, our authenticity, and our frustrations to the mix, the mix becomes fuller. It becomes better. We become better. And our kids are better for it.
So let’s challenge ourselves and each other to take off those cozy, easy, picture-perfect masks that we love to wear. And let’s allow vulnerability and truth telling grow us into the kinds of parents we all want to be.