Parenting Advice from… Alanis Morissette?
I’m not gonna lie, I spent a lot of time listening to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill in university. Maybe I related to a lot of her angst, I’m not really sure. I was a rather angsty teen and twenty-something; I felt disconnected and discouraged a lot of the time.
I’m sitting at my desk researching and writing this morning, while listening to my iTunes library alphabetically (by artist). I sort of laughed when You Oughtta Know came on because I only just recently found out who the song’s allegedly written about, and all I can think of is CUT. IT. OUT.
And as much as I used to adore this album, I never expected to find much meaning in her lyrics nearly 20 years later, but here we are. I still love listening to Hand in my Pocket, because really? This is still true for me:
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine
’cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five
What really shocked me, though, is that when Perfect came on, my heart turned into a soggy dumpling of a lump in my throat. As a parent, I try so hard to push my kids to reach their potential without pushing, you know, too hard. Last week, my kids’ report cards came home, and I was so proud of the comments their teachers made about them, but my daughter was still fixated on her letter grades. How many As? How many Bs? How come I’m not smarter? It sort of broke my heart, because I try so hard to emphasize doing our own personal best, and not worrying about those kinds of things. And then today I heard these lyrics in a new way.
Sometimes is never quite enough
If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love
Don’t forget to win first place
Don’t forget to keep that smile on your face
I grew up never really reaching my potential. Every B was a Why-Not-An-A? It’s not that I ever questioned my parents’ love, but I never quite reached that mysterious pinnacle of “Potential”. It loomed ever farther out of my reach, no matter how far I went.
Be a good boy
Try a little harder
You’ve got to measure up
And make me prouder
I never really felt like I was doing quite enough. I mean, how can I feel like I’ve “made it”? How can I really measure up to what my parents hoped I’d be when I don’t even have a job? Isn’t that what potential is for? How do I encourage my kids to reach their own potentials without pressing too hard, or, worse, not hard enough?
How long before you screw it up
How many times do I have to tell you to hurry up
With everything I do for you
The least you can do is keep quiet
How often do I forget that they’re just little kids? Hurry up. COME ON. Shhhhhhh! Stop that. How often have I shushed away their stories, rushed away their fantasies? Am I encouraging enough? Am I too lax?
Be a good girl
You’ve gotta try a little harder
That simply wasn’t good enough
To make us proud
Do they know we support them, no matter what? I tell them almost every single day that I just want them to be happy. Find their opportunities, be kind little humans, that they make us proud. Do they know? I want them to know that, in a way I never did.
I’ll live through you
I’ll make you what I never was
If you’re the best, then maybe so am I
Compared to him compared to her
I’m doing this for your own damn good
You’ll make up for what I blew
What’s the problem…why are you crying
How many times do we push our kids to reach the goals we missed? We try our best to give kids whatever we didn’t have, or to open the doors we wished were open for us. Push them to win, encourage them to be number one. Tell them the gold is all that matters, and bronze is the loser. I’ve tried so hard to not do this, but does that mean I’m doing too little?
Be a good boy
Push a little farther now
That wasn’t fast enough
To make us happy
We’ll love you just the way you are
If you’re perfect
I want my children to know that perfection isn’t the goal. How do we strike that balance without being too lax or too strict? I’m not really sure, but I know this: I never thought I’d find parenting advice in Alanis’ lyrics, but I’m going to be pondering them a little more today, for sure.
I guess life has a funny way of sneaking up on you. (But it’s still not ironic.)