Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Myth of Perfect Parenting

As a first time parent 12 years ago, I left few stones unturned in my efforts to parent well. A great deal of research went into what types of bottles, diapers, rash creams, formulas, strollers, cribs, sleep training, detergents to purchase...even what music to play in the nursery. Keenly aware this was likely my one shot at parenting, this type A personality wanted to do well. I didn't think of it as perfectionism...but more so as good stewardship of what I had been entrusted.

Eleven years later as first time foster parents, my pendulum had swung far in the other direction. Of course I still possess a desire to serve well, but my road tested and oft-humbled ego had a much more realistic and practical approach. We will keep the children God brings to us safe--and love them. This was essentially my strategy: Our family is functioning pretty well...these children will just get on board. Clearly it will be better than the difficult circumstances from which they have come. In its own way, this too, felt like stewardship.

As time has built bonds with these girls and my bio children have morphed into full-fledged tweens, I have found myself somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Needs of the children have come to light over time. I have tried to dig in and meet each where they are and in the process found myself frustrated, exhausted and inconsistent. Being pushed to the limits of self has led me at times to take on a "whack a mole" approach--dealing with squeaky wheels and burning bushes. This from the girl who has a written family vision statement... How God must laugh!

Through this process I have realized that 'perfectly' parenting each of my current five is impossible. I am drinking from a fire hose. There is just not enough time in the day, energy in my body or insight in my mind and heart to give them all a perfect childhood. I am not every referring to Pinterest worthy meals, pony rides and perfect braids...I gave up on that long ago. Some days I struggle to cover basic table manners and homework time--much less reach their hearts and combat the lies that already plague each of them to some degree.

My flesh has failed. I cannot do this with the excellence I desire.

This realization was simultaneously freeing and deep-sigh inducing.
Am I in over my head?
Am I doing more damage to these kids than good?
What were we thinking signing up to take on more when we already had our hands full with three?
Were we obedient or arrogant?

As I confessed all this to God over the course of a few weeks of somewhat hand-wringing prayer, He sent me perspective-shifting and peace-bringing truth.

"Today, we groan as we serve God, because we know all too well our handicaps and blemishes, but one day we shall serve Him perfectly!" Warren Wiersbe

And because that quote came from a study I am currently doing on the book of Revelation, it led to a revelation of my own: We simply cannot serve perfectly this side of heaven.

Furthermore, these people I have been subconsciously trying to polish up and perfect are children...little, immature but growing people. The point of childhood is to train them up no doubt, but we are preparing to launch them into the world as adults--not place them in museums as flawless specimens. They are each unique works of art, full of imperfection and quirks.

As I have received calls from teachers about issues in need of addressing (in bios and fosters), sat across from psychologists and engaged in conferences with faculty and my husband I have had to giggle that 'perfecting' a child ever crossed my mind. After all, at 41 I am more aware of my own inadequacies, weaknesses and vulnerabilities than ever. We all have a long way to go--and this is the journey of life.

I am not for throwing in the towel and settling for mediocrity...but I am a huge fan of perspective. Stop. Breathe. Laugh. Savor. Coach. Love. And agree that the only way to make it through this parenting gig with our sanity and our faith is to take it all one grace-filled day at a time.

Regardless of how the current circumstances line up with my strategy or plan, "THIS is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118 NASB


Aja said...

The BEST "advice" I have ever received- and that I still think about often- came from my mother one day when I was complaining about some aspect of one of my son's personalities. I was lamenting how he's SO loud and wild and she told me, "Try and appreciate who God made him to be." That simple phrase pretty much changed my thinking and helped me to appreciate who my children are SO much more. It's not that we no longer work on appropriate volume levels or practice self-control, but the perspective of him being uniquely created by God to be the way he is reminds me that he isn't to be molded into a little robot by me. He's a person created in God's image with struggles and talents, GREAT personality traits and some that need reigned in, redirected or focused. Now if only I can allow myself the grace to realize that God sees me much in this same way...

Arlene Grimm said...

Oh the mom of 30 somethings and the nana of six, I totally get it. I have been humbled by the actions of some of my children. I wanted those perfect kiddos that would reflect my great parenting skills! But I find I am much more relaxed with the grands...I realize one mistake or bout of naughtiness does not reflect the total character of that child. If parenthood does not humble you , nothing will!:) and I am smiling as I type this. Blessings on you and your family.

Cathy said...

I know you kind of are, but I wish you would someday write a book, that I could buy, with all the things you've learned through life in your walk with Christ. He is using you and you're letting Him.
You reach so many of us when you write. I'd definitely buy your book!
Thank you!

mmdwhitten said...

I read your blog often but have never commented. I am a pastors wife from Florida. We adopted almost 4 years ago and have two Bio kids . I can relate so much to your feelings and even after 4 years I have days that are overwhelming at best. I needed to read this post today. Just wanted to let you know That God is using you through your blog. Your insight and how you always relate it back to your relationship with our Savior is such a blessing to me. Thank you