What Kind of Parents Did Your Kids Get Stuck With?

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?

4 Comments

  1. Julie on October 29, 2012 at 12:57 AM

    I like the “David” analogy. I too had a habit of looking at other parents and seeing what they were doing wrong. I’m not sure I am completely over that. I do know, though, that since my seven-year-old began asserting her own will, I have become a lot more humble and sympathetic when i see other moms dealing with challenging kids. I also hope i am continually learning and growing rather than avoiding or beating myself up when i inevitably fall short of perfect.



  2. Deliberate Deborah on October 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    What a fabulous reminder. Thank you for your clear, honest words. I have to confess that I expect so much of myself and my 17 year old daughter and my 13 year old son that being a “great, listening, loving mom.” can sometimes be a challenge. I wrote this recently and thought I would share it here. It seemed to relate.

    “The essence of “letting go” is non judgement. The underlying skill we must master as parents is the skill of nonjudgement. We judge in our minds. We judge with our words. We judge with our eyes. When letting go, the opposite is true. We accept others with love, kindness and non judgement. We appreciate their presence, their moods, their jokes, their sass and their reason for being. Let go of judgement and we open ourselves to a whole new level of God’s radient love in our lives.



  3. Jennifer {StudioJRU} on October 30, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    What a great way to look at it… embracing imperfect progress. Love that! I do not have children, but can so use the reminder to embrace imperfect progress!! 🙂



  4. JT on November 11, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    This is exactly what I need to hear tonight. My 7-year old daughter is stacked with a tiger mom who loves to yell and scream at her. I am working hard to stop doing that and when I thought I did, I went back to the same old habit. How can I truly stop screaming and yelling at her? One chisel at a time?