Once upon a time, when I was at the starting line of parenthood, I assumed that when my children were old enough to do so, they would rise up and call me blessed. And why shouldn’t they? I was going to dazzle them with my patience. My wit. My creativity. I was going to gather them beneath my motherly wings on a daily basis and read life-changing classics—only classics— and make scripture-based crafts that we would display charmingly around the house. At the first sound of conflict, I was going to bend down to eye level and gently lead them to repentance with my tender rebuke. I was never, ever going to raise my voice. In adulthood, they would tell their friends, “My mom never yelled at us. Not even once. She is the godliest, most patient woman I know.” And they would be right.
I might have stayed on that plan for a minute or two. And then life happened, and I found myself 14 years in, on the front porch in my pajamas, yelling at the sky, “I’m here! I’m here! COME GET ME.”
Instead of singing my praises, it’s more likely that my kids will end up in a counselor’s office lamenting, “And then there was that time she begged aliens to come get her because she was trying to get away from us….”
I should start saving for that bill now. It’s going to be a doozie.
I want to be the perfect mother. I really do. It’s just that I’m kind of hardwired to be selfish and impatient, and nobody puts away their stuff, and clothes get dropped beside the laundry basket instead of in it, and crafts never work, and soup recipes always fail, and the kids think loud is best, and they refuse to adhere to my plan for their lives. How dare they. No wonder I ended up on the porch.
I used to think there was still time for me to get my act together so I would match the picture I had in my head of what a great mother should be…that they were little enough to forget the Lava Monster (see this post) and the culinary failures and the craft disasters….I thought there was time for them to forget the battles waged wrongly; the lack of grace. It felt like I was in a race against the clock, each day proclaiming, “Today I’ll do it right—there’s still time!” only to somehow strike out again.
My kids are now 14, 11, 9, and 4. They are well aware of my failures. Chances are, they’re not going to forget.
Cynicism would say, “You’ve blown it. Why try?” But grace tells a different story–a story of hope. A story of growth and redemption, even when we can’t see it.
In 30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents, I speak about this very thing:
“Too often, we miss our own progress because we’re discouraged by our failures. But let me ask you: Did you patiently meet your child’s need when you felt like you were all out of empathy? Victory. Did you repent after you responded to his need with frustration? Also a victory. Did you move toward your child with affection even though she stonewalled you? Victory. Did you beg the Lord to give you compassion when you felt cheated out of the love your child refused to give? Victory. Did you read one more story at bedtime even though your insides were screaming, ‘I just want to be done’? Victory. Were you convicted by your harshness and did you go to your child and share how desperately you need Jesus too? Very much a victory.
You may not be the parent you want to be, but you’re not the parent—or the person—you used to be, either. God is faithfully transforming you into His likeness because He promised to finish the work He started in you….Every day, there’s a little more Jesus and a little less you, whether you can see it for yourself or not.”
A little more Jesus and a little less me. I may not be the perfect parent, but actually, when perfection stops being the goal, I’m free to grow, free to fail, and free to celebrate the tiny victories. And when my kids see me blow it, repent, blow it, repent, they learn that failure isn’t the worst thing that can happen. They learn that they can bend over and belly laugh at their crazy mama in her purple sheep pajamas, shouting at the sky because she is D O N E. They hopefully know that actually, the worst thing that can happen is perfect obedience with a stone-cold heart.
I don’t want to be that kind of parent…that kind of person, do you? And I don’t want that for my children, either.
My kids may end up in counseling. They may say, “My mom was CRAY-CRAY.” But I hope it’s said with affection and hope, because they know they don’t have to be perfect, either.
The best parenting compliment I ever received was from someone who spent a week in our home. At the end of the week, after observing our family in all its raw, messy glory, she said, “Your kids are free. Do you realize what a blessing that is? Do you realize how rare that is?”
That, my friends, is by the grace of God. For her to say that about the children of a former perfectionist, still-at-times control freak, is nothing short of a miracle. My kids are free! Not in an anarchial kind of way (well, maybe sometimes…), but in a “I’m not afraid to fail, because I know I am loved” kind of way.
A little more Jesus and a little less me. Kids who are free. I’ll take that over perfect any day.
Grab your copy of 30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents!