Before you had kids, you probably had a pretty good idea of what kind of parent you didn’t want to be. After all, it’s the negative things we see in public that grab our attention and make us smugly develop an internal checklist of “parental traits I will not have.” I had a list a mile long.
Now that I have kids, this checklist continues to build, but in a different way. It’s no longer about what I won’t do in the future, but about whether I’m rising above the perceived parental infraction now. If I’m honest, other people’s failures subconsciously become a benchmark against which I determine that I’m doing OK.
I was at Target the other day and saw a mom pushing a cart with three kids. Every single kid was trying to get their mom’s attention but the mom was wearing an iPod and was completely oblivious to what her kids needed. She actually ran over her kid’s foot because she was so out to lunch. I immediately had a judgmental thought toward the mom, masquerading as sympathy for the kids: “Those poor kids. They got stuck with a mom like that.”
For some reason, the word “stuck” kept creeping into my thoughts after that day. When I see someone doing something negative that I personally wouldn’t do, I label the kids as “stuck” with a bad parent overall. When I personally fail, I consider that failure in isolation. But my kids are just as “stuck” with me as that mom’s kids were stuck with her.
My kids are stuck with a mom who is a perfectionist, is impatient, is often overly rigid, is easily frustrated and is not a nurturer by nature.
Stuck. They can’t get rid of those traits in their environment because I can’t get rid of them. They are – and I am – stuck with my sin nature.
Bryan and I often hypothesize about all the things our kids will say we did wrong someday. It’s not a question of if they will say we messed them up, but how they will say we messed them up. Our imperfections will negatively influence their lives.
I sat wondering the other night just what to do with that insight. Give up out of hopelessness? Obsess about self-improvement? Visit a restaurant to look down my nose at how many parents are letting their kids run out of control around the table (my personal checklist topper!)?
That night I downloaded a recently released book called “Unglued” by Lysa TerKeurst. In it she talks about the concept of “imperfect progress.” TerKeurst points out that we need to let go of the innate desire for perfect progress, which is not possible, and embrace imperfect progress…simply putting one foot in front of the other toward a better self without the expectation of perfect results.
TerKeurst quotes Michelangelo, who, when asked how he made his statue of David, said, “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.”
What an apt analogy! At our core is the perfected statue God made us to be. In this life, we will never be completely chiseled. There will always be sinful rock getting in the way of the person and parent we want to be. Depending on the day, our kids could be staring squarely at the judgmental rock covering our left eye or the sharp piece of impatience protruding from our back.
Avoiding improvement in the fear of imperfect progress neglects an opportunity to improve our kids’ lives through our own.
Seeking perfection inevitably leads to disappointment, frustration and anger.
But keeping a chisel firmly planted in our hand and guided by God is a commitment to simply keep making progress. A parent committed in that way is a parent I want my kids to be stuck with.
So what kind of parents did your kids get stuck with? Have you been chiseling, avoiding, or seeking perfection in yourself?