the myth of the perfect parent

Recently a friend gave me a copy of Crazy Busy: A Mercifully (Short) Book About a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. Now, I have a lot of books, and I rarely have time to read any of them. But because that very issue was sort of the issue addressed by this book, I thought it would be worth my time. DeYoung has a lot to offer, and his book is mercifully short. So if, like me, you struggle to find room in your day to breathe or eat or accomplish anything worthwhile, I commend it to you.

One of my takeaways from the book was the realization that much of my overwhelming sense of busyness comes from an expectation of personal perfection. I don’t expect anyone else in my life to be perfect – not my church, not my wife, not my kids. But I do usually expect myself to be perfect. These unrealistic expectations fuel a frenzy of activity that I struggle to control. This is true in many areas of my life, but it is especially true in my parenting. DeYoung illustrates why this is the case for many:

Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.

It’s all so involved. There are so many rules and expectations. Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism. Not just in the church, but in our culture. We live in a permissive society that won’t count any sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kids’ hot lunches. I keep hearing that kids aren’t supposed to eat sugar anymore. What a world! What a world! My parents were solid as a rock, but we still had a cupboard populated by cereal royalty like Captain Crunch and Count Chocula. In our house the pebbles were fruity and the charms were lucky. The breakfast bowl was a place for marshmallows, not dried camping fruit. Our milk was 2%. And sometimes, if we needed to take the edge off a rough morning, we’d tempt fate and chug a little vitamin D.

As parents, why are we so paranoid? Why are we so perfectionistic? I think, at the end of the day, we live in fear that we will screw our kids up for life if we don’t do everything right. We think that molding our kids’ hearts, minds, and futures boils down to every little decision we make, day in and day out. And so we’re crazy busy – because we have our lives and futures and those of our kids riding on each and every day. DeYoung continues:

We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children. Leslie Leyland Fields is right: “One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child.”

For our own sake, for our kids’ sake, and for the sake of everyone we love, let us let go of the notion that we have to be perfect. Only God is, and ultimately he is the one who will shape and direct the course of our children’s futures. In parenting, and in all avenues of life, let us do our best and then trust the Lord to do what he has sovereignly determined to do. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  He paid a staggering price to redeem us from the kingdom of darkness and bring us into the kingdom of his son (Colossians 1:13-14). The riches of his wisdom and knowledge are beyond our comprehension (Romans 11:33). Our kids are far better in his hands than ours.

Parenting doesn’t create the child; the Creator does. Let us trust him and praise him for that.

 

3 comments

  1. Amen! And BTW I think you’re doing fine with your kids. Our grown kids I also think are a little hard on us as grandparents. And we’re long-distance at that.

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  2. You and your wife are amazing parents! And I agree with everything you wrote. It is so natural to want to get this ‘parenting this’ exactly right because of such deep love and affection for our children. And how right you are about today’s cultural restrictions on the matter of parenting — it’s “over the top”!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Karen. I struggle with this on an ongoing basis. I so desperately want “parenting to produce the child.” But I need to rest in the fact that God produces the child, and we’re just the tools he uses.

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