The Lie of Perfecting Parenting

Would I have been a better mother if there had been blogs, podcasts and social media when I was raising little ones? I’ve been noticing a lot of parenting tips on the internet. How to talk about…how to teach…how to initiate…how to cover “it” all!

My kids were raised in the era of the themed birthday party. Birthdays were an event. Do you want it at the roller rink, bowling alley or Chucky Cheese? Or how about we have it at home but we’ll have Barney show up? What craft should we have for the kids to do? This generation was the precursor to the over-the-top extravaganzas of today. Although we too could go a bit over the top in the ‘90s. To be perfectly honest I was in my element with themed birthday parties. If it was horses, the cake had little horses on it. If it was ladybugs, the cake was shaped like a ladybug. If it was a sleepover, (they should be banned), the cake was made of little Twinkies made to look like sleeping bags. Yep. Crazy, over the top; but a fun creative outlet for mom!

At least we had the prevailing advise of inviting one child per the child’s age so the child wasn’t overwhelmed (3 kids at a 3 year-old party, 10 kids at a 10 year old party). Not that we followed that advice but it did reign many of us in.

I look at the extravagance of current children’s birthday parties and I think what a crazy amount of pressure on families and waste of money. Did my children enjoy their birthdays any more than I did? No, I don’t think so. My mom made a cake and invited the cousins over and we had a blast. One year my Camp Fire Girls friends were invited and I’m sure party favors were not required for a good time.

So, I’m wondering if all that’s available to current parents of little ones and teenagers make for better parenting. Sure I would have liked to have been more purposeful in blessing my children into adolescence. I love some of the ideas I’ve read about presenting to children the full gospel of salvation and freedom to live the abundant life. And we all could have used some help on talking about their sexuality. But the glut of information blinking across the monitors of present day parents has to be more overwhelming than the pressure to throw the culturally expected party.

What parents need most is God’s grace; not man’s expectations. Yes, we should be purposeful and serious about our parenting but what will our children remember in their 20s and 30s and on? If you prayed with them every night before they went to bed they’ll probably remember that. But if you prayed regularly yet not with a perfectly scheduled routine, I bet their hearts will remember that you loved them and God enough to teach prayer is an integral part of life. If you set up a schedule to teach them to cook they’ll certainly benefit from that. But if you just threw in some tips as they were about to move out and they knew you were always a phone call away, I bet they’re more secure and ready for independence than you think.

What our children also need most is grace. And they need our committed love and our willingness to do our best. They need to know they are loved unconditionally by dependable, available parents. And, they need to know life isn’t perfect and it’s an irrational expectation that their parents should have been perfect – by anyone’s foolhardy definition of perfect. It’s disappointing and debilitating to raise children that think anyone or anything other than God can be perfect.

Yep. There are a lot of blogs and podcasts that would have benefited me as a parent of little ones. But like any good thing, those things could have led me astray. Those things can lead me to put my trust in my ability rather than trusting God’s all encompassing power.

It’s a familiar lament that you have to go to driving school to drive a car but there’s no manual for parenting. Cars however, are predictable and there are a fairly limited number of scenarios as you drive. Parenting is as varied as human beings. The hard truth is we’re never going to have a step by step manual. Nor should we. There’s no grace in set rules. What we do have is Jesus and his Word and the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

What we do have is God’s grace. Exhale and praise Him!

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