Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good Enough

In the same discussion that the neurologist confirmed: "your daughter meets the criteria for Asperger's Syndrome", he also told us that we were "good enough" parents, and we couldn't have done anything to have changed this. I bristled at the term "good enough", even as he explained that an eminent child psychiatrist, Donald Winnicott, had coined the term to describe the ideal parent. This ideal parent, according to Winnicott, is good enough, not perfect. The good enough mother initially creates the illusion of perfection, meeting all the infant's needs, then slowly enables the child to transition towards independence, shattering the myth of perfection.

Instead of being pleased that my parenting was deemed "good enough", I took this to mean that I could do better. I wanted to be the perfect mother to my extra-special child, I felt that she deserved nothing less. And so I spent the months that followed investigating every therapeutic intervention, every new discovery, reading every book about autism that I could find. I'd spend hours on the floor with Pudding, trying to emulate her speech and occupational therapists as best I could. It wasn't good enough. I'd set myself a standard of perfection that was miles away from reality. Instead of enjoying my time playing with Pudding, I'd get frustrated that progress wasn't coming fast enough. It stopped being fun for both of us.

Pudding loves art, but has significant fine motor delays. Frequently she'll try to draw something, and when it doesn't match the image in her mind's eye, she gets angry and scribbles it out. Her desire for perfectionism gets in the way, and consequently limits her progress. She is a chatterbox at home, but virtually mute in company. I often wonder if she is so silent around other people because she so fears making a mistake. I want her to know that any attempt is good enough.

Lately I've realized that some lessons need to be demonstrated, behaviors need to be modeled. I'm far from the perfect mother, and trying to be puts too much pressure on all of us. I need to really shatter that illusion of perfection, and show Pudding that I make mistakes, I'm not always successful, but I keep trying. The less I've focused on developmental goals when we play together, the more fun we have, the better the connection between us, the more she thrives. We don't achieve everything we set out to, sometimes we achieve nothing at all. But we enjoy being together, and that is good enough.

I've enjoyed reading the moving and inspirational posts at Hopeful Parents for a year now. As I write my first one, I'm still having to remind myself that it doesn't have to be perfect!

You can find Spectrummy Mummy at her blog or on twitter @spectrummymummy


  1. Hi Spectrummy Mummy, the more I read about Pudding the more she reminds me of myself as a child. Never being able to sit. Never being able to shut up at home but completely silent when out of my safety zone. Looking back now I think the thing that made me that way was the unpredictable ways people would act. I was terrified of being told off or looked at in a way I didn't understand, so I just kept quiet and learnt to look at the floor. Feeling accepted and loved has been more important to me than being understood. Also finding ways to help myself understand and express my creativity has helped me become more confident.
    I think you are doing a fab job, you love your children and will do whatever they need and in my opinion that is exactly what all kids need. x

  2. There is no such thing as perfect. It's the absolute hardest lesson we parents ever learn about ourselves.
    My coulda, woulda, shoulda list is out of control.... Yet, somehow, with all my imperfect parenting we're doing very well.
    They learn, they grow..... even with not so perfect parents.

  3. What a beautiful explanation of your journey. You describe the exact conflict we have in our house - how to show that it's ok to make mistakes without feeling like you're not doing anything well enough to help your child succeed. But at those times I remember a slogan I remember reading from a small liberal arts college :"We're a place where it's ok to color outside the lines". And I have to remember to make my home that kind of place. Congratulations on your first post for HP!

  4. its a lovely post !
    I totally agree with you

  5. Lovely first post. Thankyou. We all have a lot to learn from dear Winacott. Good enough - Is Great !