Parenting used to be so easy. I only had one kid. She was young. She was outnumbered. We were so smart.
Then she started growing and getting complicated. Then her siblings arrived. Somewhere along the way the iPhone arrived. So did Pinterest.
And now, we are outnumbered, deluged by information, mocked by images of pristine homes with hand hewn dinner tables covered with free range organic tofu. Yoga mom laughs at us as she hugs woodworking dad. My peers are posting pictures of epic vacations where it looks like none of their kids fought. Their kids are getting their black belts in Taekwondo and acing their first violin recital.
Ugh. These parents are such great parents. I wish I was a better parent.
But I’m not.
And truthfully, those people probably aren’t either.
Sure, some parents are better than others, and you’re probably not the best parent in the world. But you’re definitely not the worst. The worst parent in the world would surely not read “Let’s Parent on Purpose”. That trait alone probably makes you above average. Or it means you’re my nana (who’s definitely above average). Hi Nana!
So, since we’re not the best, and since we’re not the worst, take these words to heart:
- Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Remember how you took a learners test, drove with someone for a year, and then took another test before you were allowed to drive a car? That didn’t happen with parenting. Other things happened to make you a parent. But not specific training. You’re learning as you go. There are going to be so many things you don’t get right the first time around. Seek forgiveness when you’ve sinned, be honest with your kids when you messed up, and move on.
- Give your kids the benefit of the doubt. They’re probably pretty weird. They each definitely have at least one habit that mortifies you. But they weren’t giving a kid manual either. They’re learning as they go. They’re not going to be everything you want them to be because they’re not your creation. They’re God’s creation; you’re just the steward. Let them be weird, and let them fail. Forgive and move on.
- Get over yourself. It’s amazing how much ego is tied up into parenting. People take coaching on their appearance, their athletics, their finances, and just about everything else better than they take coaching on their parenting. Why do we get so offended when someone offers input into how we parent? Honestly, I think I’m a pretty good parent, but I’ve only been the parent of a fifteen year old for 33 days. I’m ALWAYS in uncharted territory. We all are! We should be open to hearing advice and council without acting like they denigrated our very soul. You’re not going to like everything you hear, but listen. Chew the meat, spit out the bones.
- Get better. You’re not as bad of a parent as you think you are. But you can most definitely improve. There are so many things to improve! Communication, feedback, finances, relationships, spiritual discipleship, cooking, delegating chores, tactfully saying “that outfit makes you look like a prostitute”…. So many things! Above all else, the three things I want to be best at in life are 1) a lover of Jesus, 2) a great husband, and 3) a great father. These are the things that are most important to me so I block off time not just to be in these relationships, but to get better in these relationships.
In all of this, remember that your standard is not social media or other people; it’s the Word of God. And it’s from God’s Word that I learn a couple of incredibly important character lessons:
- Suffering produces character. We all want our kids to have deep character, to be loving, compassionate, hard working, helpful humans. But most of that stuff doesn’t happen in a classroom. It happens when life punches us to the floor (or trip and fall on the floor) and learn about the grace and mercy of God, as well as the blessing of having graceful people in our lives. We never want trial or tragedy or broken hearts to come into our kids’ lives. But in reality, the people we admire and want to be most like have walked through deep valleys. The suffering in your child’s life has a purpose. From a broken arm to a broken heart, suffering produces character.
- God is the Great Physician. Romans 8:28 teaches that God causes all things to work together for good for those that love him and are called according to His purpose. Just like a pharmacist will mix together two poisonous substances in just the perfect way to provide the cure for our physical ailments, God can work together our mistakes as parents, the sin of our children, and the brokenness in this world to ETERNALLY be the best thing for us and our kids, through His Gospel and His Grace. You’re going to really screw things up, and God’s going to use those screw ups for great good.
So you wish you were a better parent? Me too. And by God’s grace, tomorrow we will be.