No one is expected to be perfect when they’re first learning. No one drives a car on the freeway on their first try, or flies a plane, or executes a double layout during a gymnastics meet. Each of these things takes practice and time, and if we can’t speak Russian flawlessly from the start, we shouldn’t feel down on ourselves.
Being a parent is no different. We understand the principles in theory, but putting them into daily practice is another story. We feel our way blindly, trying one thing and then another, finding those methods that work and bumbling our way through those that don’t. And just when we think we’ve got it figured out, we either have another child with a totally different personality, or our child enters a different stage in life and the old tricks and tools don’t work any more. It’s a constant circus.
So if we’re willing to forgive ourselves for not being able to ice skate the first time out, why are we so hard on ourselves as parents? We’ve never done it before. As the classic complaint goes, kids don’t come with instruction manuals. We’re flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to parenting. We will make mistakes, but as long as we are sincerely trying to do our best, it will all work out in the end.
I’m aiming this blog at myself as much as I am my reading audience. This week has been a tough one. My daughter’s hamster is sick and as much as I love my daughter, I can’t and won’t spend over two hundred dollars on x-rays that will only tell us if the current course of treatment will work or not. I’ve done everything I can to help the hamster and to administer the medication. I’ve talked with my daughter about life after death. I’ve done all I can to make the hamster comfortable. And yet, in the back of my mind is that niggling question—“Am I a bad mother for the way I’m handling this?”
My oldest son has been begging me to see the Star Wars movies. Upon his turning ten, I told him he could watch them, but I’d be on hand to fast forward any parts I thought were too violent for him. Last night we watched the third film, and I had every intention of blipping over the fight scene between Obi Wan and Anakin—falling into lava is sort of gruesome. But it’s been a while since I saw the movie and I forgot about the fight between Palpatine and Windu. That was a bit freaky and my son had nightmares. Um … yeah. I felt terrible. It’s my job to protect him and I was a little slow on the blip button.
Down the road, I’m sure I’ll make even more mistakes. As my children get older, the mistakes will probably be bigger just as their problems become bigger. I might even (accidentally) shoot my daughter’s first boyfriend if he gets a little too carried away with his goodnight kiss on the front porch. But as we make mistakes, we become wiser, and we learn the things we need in order to keep from repeating those mistakes. I’ll be more vigilant with movies from now on. As long as we make God a partner in our parenting, and consistently seek the best for our children, we will do a good job and we have no reason to beat ourselves up for not being perfect the first time around. And by the time my youngest is old enough to start having issues, I’ll be a total pro. Right?
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