The Wild, Wonderful World of Imperfect Parenting with Expert Heather Aranda, Mother of Eight

IAOL 21 | Healthy Parenting

Balancing family, marriage, work, and at least a touch of self-care isn’t easy. Sometimes, the harder we strive to get it all done perfectly, the more life seems to unravel. Could the secret to finding balance be a blend of loving kindness, a positive mindset, and letting go of the desperate quest for perfection?

 

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The Wild, Wonderful World of Imperfect Parenting with Expert Heather Aranda, Mother of Eight

Healthy Parenting with Positive Mindset, Loving Kindness, and a Kid-Specific Approach!

Balancing family, marriage, work, and at least, a touch of self-care isn’t easy. Sometimes, the harder we strive to get it all done perfectly, the more life seems to unravel at the scenes. Could the secret to finding balance be a blend of loving-kindness, a positive mindset, and letting go of the desperate quest for perfection?

In this episode, we’ll focus on this reader’s real-life question, “I’m 39 and the mom of two preteen kids. My partner says I’m critical and that I pressured the kids to do too much and to be perfect. I only pushed them so they’d get ahead in life. Am I wrong to want them to be the best?” With that question as the focus of this episode, this is Imperfect Love.

IAOL 21 | Healthy Parenting

I’m joined by a very special guest, Heather Aranda, a mom of eight who will be sharing her expertise on the balancing act of motherhood. Welcome to the show, Heather. Thank you so much for being with us.

Thank you. How are you?

I’m super, and you?

I’m good.

That’s a wonderful thing to hear from someone who’s balancing a husband, life, eight children, and something we’ll talk about in a bit, The Family Arcade. Before we get into that, tell our readers a little bit about what makes you, you.

Successful parenting is imperfect parenting. It's all about love, balance, and tuning into your child's unique needs. Join Dr. Carla and Heather Aranda, mother of eight and co-leader of The Family Arcade for an adventure into the heart of healthy… Click To Tweet

Thank you. I’m a mom of 8 kids, as you know, and 6 are in our home all the time. Balancing them is a challenge but it’s worth it. We are always tested. The little ones here will probably be popping in on occasion and possibly spilling Cheerios or something else mysterious in the background, but it’s an adventure and it’s worth it.

I’ve gotten to know you a bit, and I love how you have this amazing positive attitude. Before we jump into some of those secrets, which I know one of your secrets is a positive attitude, what makes you, you?

I tend to look at things differently than most people. I do have a positive attitude, but it’s not just the attitude. It’s how you view the negative. When the negative comes in like I have ADHD, instead of looking at that Attention Deficit Disorder as a negative and getting on medication and trying to fix myself, I embraced it. It’s an advantage, especially being a 41-year-old woman this year 2023.

I love the distraction. It’s a gift. It’s how you look at it. Some might say, “Something bad happened to me in my youth, and what they did was horrible.” I understand. How you view it later in life, how you become stronger, how you direct your daughters, even your sons to prepare for the possibility of someone who is not quite in control of themselves. The way you talk to them about these things is because of that experience and possibly preventing something far greater from happening. Again, it is how you take the point of view on the negative and make it part of your path.

What a great way to launch into the show because we have the idea first of the upbeat piece that I want to address a little bit more in-depth. Now, you’ve given me this huge nugget of gold that, for many people, once they realize, “That trauma from childhood that I never resolved or the trauma from childhood that I did resolve, or the issues I encountered along the way, what do I do with those? Do I hide them from my kids? Do I be more vigilant? What do I do? How do I do this?”

When we look at the reader’s question, the question of, “I’m pushing my kids and my husband says I’m being critical and pushing too hard,” what is your opinion on that piece? When we push so hard to be perfect, do you think that sometimes it’s the result of childhood issues that haven’t been addressed, that haven’t been looked at, that you’re carrying on or making up for from something maybe that happened in your childhood or your parent’s childhood?

I do, and based on that question alone, I can tell you two things. The husband and the wife are the same. I can tell you why. The wife, for example, is trying so hard to make this perfection happen to make up for whatever she is struggling with within herself. God bless her. We all have it and whatever it is from her youth that she’s still battling about that wasn’t fair or she didn’t understand or she hasn’t gone through that yet to accept it.

Parenting can be tough. Our kids will test us. It's our loving, firm response to those tests that makes all the difference. Join Dr. Carla and Heather Aranda, mother of eight and co-leader of The Family Arcade for an adventure into the joys and… Click To Tweet

That’s what’s making it hard on her with her kids but it’s okay. That always happens. She will get past that. As for her husband, the reason I say he’s the same is he’s playing the opposite role. He’s doing the very lax thing now where it’s not the support. It’s more like, “Back off. I’m the good dad. I’m the buddy here. I’m on your side. I’ve got your back,” because that’s easy for him because he’s also dealing with something from his childhood, ironically enough. He doesn’t want to be like his dad or his mom.

Whoever it was in his life that pushed him to be hard, he already made a stance in himself, “I’m going to be the opposite and since she’s doing that, I have to be the good guy. I can’t be this way because then, they’re going to look at me the way maybe I looked at,” whatever it is he’s dealing with. No one knows. It’s in his bubble but it’s there. They’re both in the same position and honestly, they got to calm down and take a breather. It’s a new journey.

I love that we’ve stumbled upon this huge piece because often, for every parent out there, we don’t mean to hurt our kids, generally. Good parents are trying and sometimes, stumbling then trying again. One of the most important pieces you are focusing on is the ability to pause, to not judge the self or blame the self. There’s no good in that but say, “Am I reacting to the way I was parented? Am I reacting to how my caregivers treated me unconsciously, thus, either repeating what my parents did?” which might have been you being perfect or responding maybe to no support and saying, “I didn’t have support from my parents. Now, I’m going to support my kids full force.”

It’s that part where we talked about balance and parenting. Being able to see each child as an individual and being able to see your strengths as a human being are natural frailties if only, we could see them in the moment but it’s so often in hindsight. If we can pause as much as possible it sounds like you do. You pause and you look and you say, “This is something that happened in my childhood or how I’m doing it. Let me respond to the situation rather than react to it.”

IAOL 21 | Healthy Parenting

For me, it’s become subconscious. It’s natural and that stems from my childhood with my mother and my father. I have an older sister but we’re about ten years apart. After I was born, I don’t know. You’re going to hear one side of the story from one parent, the one you live with, which is going to be a little bit more colored and visual, and everybody on that side will support that. Me being the sensitive child, I was and am. I felt the pain more than the words. I could feel what was going on behind whatever was being said, whether it was anger. Whatever it was, no one could hide anything because I could feel it inside, this feeling of whatever it was they were feeling and it got me.

They’re saying one thing and you’re like, “All is good. Everything’s okay. We’re bright and perky,” but inside, you’re picking up as the sensitive, “Something is wrong here,” but no one was talking about it.

I would feel it and because I would feel it, I didn’t like how it felt. I would change my feelings inside by changing their mood. I was very positive growing up, a little too positive. I have a nice balance now, I have to say. As a child growing up, a lot of people will take advantage of that because we moved a lot. My mom, God bless her. She went through a lot of issues trying to find herself and I don’t know what she will or has.

We, unfortunately, now do not talk and that’s part of life. It does happen and you have to accept that things happen for a reason. My mom with all her moves and travels, I remember one time we moved to this place. It was in Ohio and it was my first day of school, fourth grade. There was this girl. She was overweight and it was recess. All these kids were making fun of her. I’ll tell you. That’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me.

To this day, I don’t get it. I naturally went in and defended her and told them that that wasn’t nice. The irony is I moved from California. Over there, we were a little bit more raised to speak. It’s one of the best places I ever lived. I loved it there if my mom hadn’t divorced and moved. In Mansfield, I thought I was doing the right thing, then the next thing I knew, all the kids started making fun of me including the girl I defended. From that day forward, I set my position at that school. I could have got angry. I could have hated but I couldn’t. For some reason, I could not bring myself to hate them. I felt sorry for them inside. I was sad for myself but confused about why they were the way they were.

What did you do? How did you respond overall for the time that you were there?

Honestly, in all the places I’ve lived except for California, the irony, I struggled with many different things. How I dealt with it was not easy. Probably like a lot of people, I cried. Unfortunately, I was violated. I’d horrible things happen to me, very violent things. I came out of that also. I was in hospital. I went through a lot of negative things.

When people come at me and they’re like, “You have no idea what I’ve been through,” I don’t, and what you’ve been through in your life is probably been horrible. I can’t compare because I didn’t live your life and I’m not you. Even if it was something that someone might say, “Really? That’s what’s bothering you?” We can’t compare to other people. We can only accept what we’ve been through.

We can't compare ourselves to other people. We can only accept what we've been through. Click To Tweet

For whatever reason, we could spend our lives crying about it, wondering why, or pick ourselves up and decide. My grandpa, rest his soul, is amazing. When he was in the hospital, he lived like five years more. If he fell asleep, they were going to unplug them and the man said, “What? No, I want to live.” He said with such passion, “That’s not happening.”

I will tell you one thing that’s not sad. I was sent a video back when my grandfather did pass away and the night he passed away, the man died dancing for the nurses and then he fell asleep and passed away peacefully. That’s beautiful. I know it doesn’t happen to everybody but he lived an amazing life. He lived with cancer, with a lot of things, a lot of struggles, and during the depression. We’ve got stories we get told. We’ve all been through stuff. We can cry about it, hate ourselves, hate what others have done or what they put us through and or took advantage of, or whatever.

I am with you, Heather. If I’m hearing you right because the paradigm I come from is stuff that happens to us, traumas of all different levels. Some people have much deeper and bigger ones than others. Again, we don’t want to compare them because how the psyche experiences it is different based upon the individual and their personality.

The gift of life is to be able to see each of these issues. Use it as fuel for learning more about the self to maybe be a better role model to one’s children, to support one’s partner, or to be a more human in the world with coworkers and friends. I’m big about forgiveness. Forgiveness for people who have wronged us doesn’t mean that we let them in again. Sometimes, we can forgive and still have this very strong boundary, but then move forward rather than stewing in resentment and anger because that’s what hurts us, not the person who harmed us, and taking that next best step.

I always say it’s that next wise step. I want to get back to the parenting piece. It sounds as if that method is one of your secrets to being positive. It sounds like you’ve had significant trauma. It sounds like because you’ve worked through it, you’ve done the work. You’re very conscious of having done the work. That’s what makes you positive because you’re not weighed down by all of these burdens and unhealed traumas from the past. Did I get that right?

You are 100% correct. We all work through it at our own pace and different things will happen at different times. Let’s be patient.

We all work through things at our own pace, and different things will happen at different times. Click To Tweet

I do have to say, not to contradict you, but I do believe that some people don’t work through things at any pace. Some people choose to say, “I’m going to put this little box. I’m going to dig a big hole and put that issue in a box. I will never look at it.”

That was my ex.

They often say, “It doesn’t affect me,” but as you did when we were looking at the reader’s question, you are very clear to say, “It’s the unresolved issues. They’re putting their need.” The mom, in this situation, puts her need for perfection on the kids for whatever her wounds are. The dad takes the other point of view, which is, “I’m the good guy,” whatever those unaddressed issues are. Neither parent is right or wrong. It’s about finding that balance looking at each child as an individual and saying, “What does this child need to be successful and happy in their own way?” Would you agree with that?

I do agree, and you’ve hit the nail on the head. That is exactly it in every way. I know plenty of people in my life who are like that as well. We’re all such unique individuals with so many personalities. I’ve yet to find two people that are identical. You’re going to find two personalities that are very similar and you’re going to think, “This is my match. We’re perfect for each other. We’re the same.” Maybe for you. Who knows?

The irony is it’s the fear of letting that other side of yourself when you’re uncomfortable come in. When you find that opposite personality that you did like but that opposite side scares you, who’s going to give? Who’s going to stop and go, “This is silly. What am I doing?” It doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time. You lead by example and you’re going to have a lot of failures and ups and downs. Some people need someone to talk to and some people will never want to talk. They’re going to be a closed book and it’s sad, but you can’t change other people. You can only change yourself and hope that others can be inspired by what you’ve done.

You can't change other people. You can only change yourself and hope that others will be inspired by what you've done. Click To Tweet

It’s so interesting because my fourth book, The Joy of Imperfect Love, works from exactly the premise that you were talking about. We were often drawn to someone who is opposite of us. That oppositeness at first is alluring like, “This is yummy. I’m an introvert. He’s an extrovert. I’m into this but that person’s into that. They like this. I like that.” That’s part of what is unconsciously or consciously, the draw.

As the relationship deepens and gets real, then it’s like, “I don’t like your sensitivity,” which is the very thing that you were drawn to. “You’re too sensitive.” The person’s going, “You like that I’m warm, cuddly, and nurturing.” This is when the opposite piece starts giving us the opportunity to dive in and work on that part of the self that might be uncomfortable with being sensitive. That might be uncomfortable with talking about deep issues.

That’s such an important piece when we go back to the question. We have this couple, the one is the perfectionist and the other one’s playing the good guy. Instead of being adversarial, then the work would be into coming together and saying, “Let’s talk about what’s happening with perfection. Let’s talk about this good parent, bad parent thing we’re doing.” How can we create harmony in our relationship around this so that we’re cultivating imperfectly being our best selves and being role models for the kids, not criticizing them, but helping them become imperfect versions of their best selves?

That’s why confidence is key with them. If I could give advice to any parent whether it’s their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, I don’t care. Out of all the things, I know everybody has their ways. Whatever kid it is, the first thing I would teach is confidence. Don’t let them develop it on their own. Help them. Let them know how amazing they are, even with their flaws and not so flaws.

We have a child. Let’s imagine. One child is doing their darnedest. They are working and struggling to get that C in Algebra. You have another child and that is working. We then have the other child who’s gifted in Math and comes home and looks at the book. He doesn’t even open it. He scribbles out the homework and gets an A-plus. What do you say to that child who was struggling and trying so hard, every fiber of his or her being to get that C? What do you say?

One, you would already know their personality at that point. You would know their other strings. I’m assuming if that child struggles that much, their side of the brain is a little bit more creative maybe in other ways. You would already know that about them. You let them know that a C is okay. It’s beautiful. They worked hard for that. Remind them about their other strengths.

If you do want to help them study, you can do it in a creative way. You can do it in that one-on-one where they might need a little bit more attention back and forth because it helps them learn. At that point, it’s about knowing your kid, but not projecting your image onto your kid. If you’re projecting yourself onto your child, you’re going to treat them like you want yourself to be treated. This is not in terms of treating others how you want to be treated. This is about your child being who they are, guiding and teaching them.

In every sense of the word, be a parent but their personalities start when they’re in the womb. For those who don’t get to experience that, it’s okay. You’re going to see it from the moment you’re holding them, from the moment you have a day with them. It doesn’t matter what parent you have become, whether by natural birth or by a gift. You will see your child’s personality. It’s not that complicated even when they’re babies, the irony. It starts to show little things.

As you see that and as you notice it, you’ve got that childhood doesn’t even have to study, it’s a no-brainer and get A’s on everything. They roll their eyes at you, “Are you serious? You don’t know how to do this.” You’re going to have that and you’re going to have the child who grabs their head and goes, “Mom, why can’t I get this? I don’t understand.”

They’re screaming and frustrated, but they’re not going to stop and do things a different way that may help them because then you’re forcing their personnel to change. That’s why you always get the pool. If you do that, you’re like, “If you were to do it this way and you do it that way,” which is what most of us, parents, resort to. “You’re not doing it. You’re not even putting the effort in. If you were to try, you were to do this daily. If you’re not going to do your part, then you’re not going to get the result.” We have parents like that, but you’re going to struggle because the natural personality that they have developed is battling you subconsciously and it doesn’t mean to.

If you're not going to do your part, then you're not going to get the result. Click To Tweet

I am so with you. We can look at the question of the day. It’s not 8 kids but this parent has 2 kids. It’s so hard for us as busy parents to slow down and see that even many parenting books don’t remind us that every child is incredibly different. We think, “This is the strategy that should work. If I push my child to success and I focus on that, then I will get the child there,” rather than seeing what sounds like your template.

Eight kids and eight different personalities. You’re fortunate in the sense that your job is The Family Arcade, which we’ll talk about in a moment. Your job is your children. Your work is your children. Readers please, there’s no judgment here. If you are working and a full-time parent outside the home as well, not that full-time parenting in a home, it is not easy but the key is to realize that these little beings or big beings are all individuals that you may have to tailor-make your style. You have to tailor your style to their humanity and their personality because they’re young and their brains can’t figure it out without you helping to create that safe container. Is that right, Heather?

You’re right about that. That’s, for me, the best way to do it. There are a lot of books out there. Some people do need guidance because that’s their personality and I get it. Some books are good. I like them, but you have to take that as help but not as exact roles because no one’s going to parent your kid better than you.

IAOL 21 | Healthy Parenting

On that, there’s a huge dose of confidence. Remember parents, you have your child in front of you. You’re likely tired, stressed, and busy, but if you get some self-care in there, create maybe a step back, and start baby steps toward seeing what your child needs. Your child will be okay. I’m reflecting back on what I’m hearing you say. You tune into them, watch what they need and they will be successful because you’re feeding them on a diet of loving kindness, flexibility, and tuning into them. Did I get that right? It’s attunement. We’re talking attunement here.

There are rules. Some people say, “What about the rules?” I assure you, there are a lot of rules in our house. You should hear us. There are plenty of rules and they get tested because that’s what kids do. Do you know when kids test you? Sometimes we give in and they know that when we’re too tired or busy at the moment, we do give in.

My kids know me. They know if I am distracted editing, that’s the time to ask me, “Mom, can I have tablet time and stuff to go to bed?” This is me, “Go,” then, “Mom, you gave him tablet time? You said this and that.” “What? No.” They’re always going to test us because we don’t stick to our rules. We’re flexible too. Remember that. Remind yourself it’s not easy to be a parent and your neighbor might look like they’re perfecting everything or something, but they’re not you. They’re not your kids.

What we see on the outside is not necessarily what’s going on the inside. On the piece, before we go to The Family Arcade, I do have to say, readers, consistency. I’m a big believer, even they know. The minute that we’re not consistent, we have to make it up 100 times over because of that moment where we gave in and gave the tablet or gave this. Consistency is so important. Let’s launch into your livelihood a little bit. We don’t have to spend a lot of time, but it’s beautiful to see the work you do with The Family Arcade and the way that you spread joy. For our readers, could you explain The Family Arcade?

It’s an experience. It’s something to help you connect and calm down for a brief moment in time. It doesn’t take much. It’s not a long YouTube video or anything where you have to get stuck. Within that moment, we hope that you felt good or a little bit of euphoria. You like how we did something. We want to create a nice feeling and that’s our goal.

The Family Arcade is Instagram Reels. You have so many followers, growing. How many followers do you have now?

I believe 140,000 or 141,000.

A huge number of people follow you so that they can get these doses of joy and authentic positivity but also real-life experiences that are happening in your family.

We will show things like that and sometimes, companies send us neat things then we’ll record the kids genuinely experiencing it and having fun. Making our style of videos for entertainment and sharing a little bit of us with everybody. That’s it.

For you, is life always as upbeat and cheery as the Reels tend to show?

No. Editing is fun. There could be a seventeen-minute video that we’re bringing down to 1 minute or 45 seconds. That’s a lot of stuff you’re taking out. When you have a full household, you’re going to have someone screaming or someone going, “That’s not fair. Leo did this,” or anything, life’s not there, right? It’s going to happen. It’s going to always happen when you don’t want it to. Knowing that, you’ll see a lot of muted things sometimes or audio pulled or moved around a little bit. There are little tricks in there to avoid some of those colorful kid moments or me in the background going, “Enough.”

You’re not the perfect parent as you keep saying.

I’m the barking dog with no bite but that is the problem. They know I have no bite. Some will silence me when I yell because they don’t want to hear the horn because I can project. I am so good at projecting. These are the kids who will run away laughing when I’m chasing them down. They don’t take me seriously, but they do want to calm the horn, if the horn goes off and they’re like, “All right, Mom. Jeez.”

Since you’re not the barker, you bark but no bite. I do have to say it is wonderful how you take great care to personalize. It sounds like the positive reinforcement and the consequences that you personalize your parenting so that each child gets the attention, the attunement, and the corrective experience that they may need.

Honestly, we’re all unique. Again, it’s just a journey.

When we take it back to the reader about the kids, the real takeaway I’m getting, especially for a busy mom with eight kids, is it’s not perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to say, “I messed up,” and then go back to the child and correct whatever’s happening or has happened and adjust it. For the mom that we’re talking about, it might be something as simple as having a few big talks with the husband so they can become team members, and then going toward the kids and saying, “We’re going to revamp some things here. We’re going to make it so that we look at what the true priorities are here, your strengths, and how we can move toward those strengths and support the parts that are more difficult for you.”

It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to say, “I messed up,” and then go back to the child, correct whatever's happening or has happened, and adjust it. Click To Tweet

You understand completely and I can’t wait to read your book, by the way. I’m very excited.

Thank you. Heather, thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule. I can’t even imagine. It has been such a pleasure. Where can our readers find you?

They can follow us on Instagram, @TheFamilyArcade.

As we draw things to a close, I wanted to share this beautiful quote from Heather, “People often strive for perfection because they seek comfort and a sense of worthiness.” I love that piece as well as your other quote, “As parents, we will be tested.” It’s about how we respond to those tests. We need to pause, breathe, and respond rather than react to those tests because they do come.

It’s okay to fail. You can be yourself up and you try again.

It’s okay to fail. Just pick yourself up and try again. Click To Tweet

On that, I want to say that when we make a mistake, when we have a hiccup, there’s so much to be said for authentically apologizing and saying, “I got it wrong. I apologize. How can I make up for it? Here’s what I’d like to do better next time. I am so sorry.” That makes a big difference in parenting when kids realize we’re human. We’re going to get it wrong sometimes and we’re going to raise our voice when would rather not, or do something we wish we hadn’t done and then we say I’m sorry.

They’re going to know us better than we know ourselves sometimes.

I’m a firm believer. They’re so smart. They have our number very quickly in life. Thanks again, Heather. It’s a pleasure and a joy. I so appreciate you.

Thank you. I love talking to you. I always look forward to it.

Take care. Be well, and good luck with your eight children. Blessings to you.

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About Heather Aranda

Heather (Pikas) Aranda is the force behind The Family Arcade. Mother, former model, actor, and dancer, Heather started performing at the age of 9 at the Mansfield Renaissance Theatre. When she turned 18 she signed a contract with Pro-Model, modeling for print and promotional commercial endeavors. Her creative side took over and after she graduated from Toledo Academy of Beauty Culture she started a career as a freelance make-up artist and hair stylist for theatrical and dinner theatre entertainment.

In 2003 she began her commercial acting career in a regional spot for Mercedes. From there she went on to appear in a wide variety of different acting roles, everything from a commercial for the cult-classic documentary “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” a supporting role in an esoteric, hyperbole on consumerism titled, “Mother’s Day Special,” to a lead role in “Copley: An American Fairytale,” where she plays the mother in this ghost story/supernatural thriller that eschews violence and gore, and instead relies on strong visual storytelling and acting ability to convey the scares and mystery of a young family haunted by apparitions. She also has a strong dance background, and is credited with dance choreography for the critically acclaimed short film, “The Box Preacher.”

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