My Imperfect, Perfect Kid: International Bipolar Foundation Column

Oct 11, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Mental Health, Muffy Walker

by Muffy Walker, MSN, MBA

Muffy Walker, of the International Bipolar Foundation, writes a mental health column for KRL every other month.bipolarlogo

At a recent summer BBQ, I sat quietly at a picnic table while the other mothers bragged about their children. “Tommy scored the winning goal in the lacrosse playoffs,” beamed Sally. “Jessica was accepted to all five of her top college choices, and is going to Stanford,” boasted Lucinda. “Greg won the debate contest, Carla got perfect SAT’s, Matthew landed a job at Deloitte”…the list of accomplishments was endless.

With so much focus on the achievements of our children, the message begets the question, is this all we value, only the “perfect, gifted child?” In your holiday letter (if you write one), do you only include your children’s glowing accomplishments, or are you just as proud of including their not-so-perfect accomplishments? When was the last time you heard another parent crow about their son’s attendance at community college or their daughter’s cloakroom job at WalMart?

My son attended a school for children with mood disorders and learning disabilities. He was not chosen to be on the baseball team, never went to prom and was too afraid to go for his learner’s permit. At his only job, he was let go after five days for being too slow making the coffee beverages.

So what’s a parent of a less than perfect child to do? Every child, let me repeat that, every child has a gift. It is our responsibility as parents to embrace and rejoice in whatever accomplishments he/she makes. If your child has a disability and by social standards is less than perfect, it is your responsibility to educate others about the disability. Unlike many physical ailments, most emotional and developmental disorders are not visible, and therefore may be wrongfully judged, placing further shame and embarrassment on the child.

Teach your children to accept the differences in others and to look beneath the surface (don’t judge a book by its cover), but most importantly, celebrate and rejoice in your child’s accomplishments. Brag about them with pride and as Gina Gallagher and Patricia Terrasi in their book, Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid say, “we’re wearing our badges of imperfection and telling the world with grace, we’re not always OK, but that’s OK.”

My son now attends a small junior college and takes one course. He bicycles to the YMCA every day, and is working on his goals at a transitional living program. His father, brothers and I are extremely proud of him and know that these feats, though they may seem minute and trivial to some, are mountainous to him.

Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles.

Muffy Walker was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, PA. She currently resides in Switzerland with her husband John C. Reed and their three sons. In 1983, Walker graduated with a Master’s of Science in Psychiatric Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked in the mental health field for over 18 years until she moved to California when she obtained her MBA with a focus in marketing from the University of California-Irvine. Walker is the founder and President of International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF). After learning that her youngest son had Bipolar Disorder, Walker joined other mental health boards and ultimately started IBPF. She has served on a plethora of boards including Children’s Hospital, Kids Korps USA, NeighborHelp, ChildHelp USA, and has dedicated the past 10 years of her life championing the education of the public about mental illness.

1 Comment

  1. Awesome. Finally someone sees this as I do. Your words speak volumes. Thank you so much. Much love and peace your way.


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