Before my first child was even out of the womb, I felt comfortable that I had parenting figured out. I was dead serious that I was going to be a perfect parent. My kids were not going to be the ones running around in a grocery store upset at not getting the candy bar they’d been drooling over in the check-out aisle. My children were not going to scream and misbehave in the midst of a crowd while hanging on to my hand. They weren’t going to talk back to me in a curt or disrespectful way because I told them no. It was so easy being a perfect parent when I didn’t have any kids.
Raising four children, I can say with some confidence now, that I feel like I did a pretty good job and learned some great lessons through those years, but I was far from faultless and that’s okay. I think the motivation to seek perfection is good because it stems from wanting the best for your child. However, if you continue down this path of perfection and don’t forgive yourself when you stumble over a wrong decision or an inappropriate response to your child, then you may be headed on a path of destruction with nowhere to turn.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, there is no perfect parent. There are too many emotions involved in parenting that provide opportunities for making mistakes. For example, you want to give your child everything on a silver platter until you realize it will tarnish when your child becomes spoiled. Or as your children mature and develop their personality and sense of humor, you’d love to be good friends with them. Too often, however, parents take that too far providing alcohol or inappropriate material in order to secure their friendship. There is a point where you and your children may develop a great friendship, but you will always be their parent. This means your children still don’t want to believe you ever had sex!
If you had a less-than-ideal childhood, you know firsthand the devastating effect a lousy parent can have on a child. Your motivation stems from not wanting to repeat that scenario—but be careful your drive for perfection doesn’t actually steer you off the road.
I think when it comes to parenting, you have to do the best you can based on what you know and what you can learn. It’s very much on-the-job training. Books and manuals on parenting are good tools but every kid is so different. You can’t beat yourself up because you don’t perceive your parenting as perfect, because there is no perfect parent model. There are great parents everywhere, but nobody is flawless.
I’ve learned many lessons over my parenting years. My kids stomped their feet, threw temper tantrums, begged for candy at the store and did pretty much all the things I was hoping to avoid. And even though I thought at one point my oldest son might reign as the next Attila the Hun, he didn’t turn out too bad. He’s working in ministry and helping to make a difference in people’s lives around the nation. My other kids are doing well too, but it doesn’t happen because I’m a perfect parent but I’m a parent who keeps on trying and never stops growing.
But note this—the Seaborns are not perfect, especially me. We are people who make mistakes and who like you, hope to continue to learn and grow together as a family.