One of the best gifts we can give our children is to stop trying to be perfect parents.
Don’t set out to be a hero to your children.
Throw away your capes.
Embrace your failure to be a super-mom, a super-dad, and other people who don’t exist.
You’ll not only be doing your children a favor. You’ll being doing all of us a favor, including yourself.
Earlier this year, Bunmi Laditan wrote about “How to Be a Mom in 2017.” She said, “Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, and social needs are met while being careful not to over stimulate, underestimate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen free, processed foods free, plastic free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-storey, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development also don’t forget the coconut oil.”
Then she added:
“How to be a mom in literally every generation before ours:
feed them sometimes.”
The post went viral. And with good reason.
We don’t need more helicopter parents micromanaging the lives of their children. We don’t need more moms making it their life’s mission to make sure their kids have the very best of everything. We don’t need dads bending over backwards to provide an affluent, idyllic life for their children.
We need them embracing and rejoicing in mediocrity.
Because that’s how life works. And it’s the mediocre, average, imperfect things in life that make all the difference.
Perfectionism, in parenting and other areas of life, is a seductive ideology. It’s what Brené Brown calls, “The belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield we lug around thinking that it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the only thing that’s preventing us from taking flight.”
Perfectionism in parenting is all about control. But control is just a mask. Beneath that mask is one of the oldest, ugliest faces around: fear.
We fear that if we’re not perfect parents, we’ll mess our children up (don’t worry, we will). We fear that if we don’t control every aspect of our children’s lives, they might get into trouble (they will anyway). We fear that if we don’t hover over them, impress them, do heroic things for them, they’ll not have the same advantages as other kids (so what?).
Our kids will discover that most of life is not fireworks and Ferraris but Hondas and humdrum.
If there’s anything we should fear, it’s that we’re teaching our children that only the extraordinary matters. That winning first place is what life is all about. That getting into the top school is of the ultimate importance. That standing above the crowd is how we make ourselves worthy. If we fear anything, let’s fear putting those vain, self-serving thoughts into our children’s heads.
Don’t concern yourself with giving your kids the very best. That’s the last thing they need. Feed them. Make sure they wear shoes in the wintertime. That they go to church and school. Love them, play with them, forgive them and ask their forgiveness when you screw up.
Parenting is not rocket science; it’s not even science. It’s just doing ordinary stuff to make sure these little people under your care are, in fact, cared for. People have been doing this since, like, the dawn of time, amazingly without reading a single book about How to Be an Extraordinary Parent.
It’s okay to be an average parent.
Being a run-of-the-mill, mediocre parent is a gift to your children. It models for them what life is all about: the little things, the overlooked things, the minuscule elements of daily life that—in various ways—are God’s gifts to us.
Our kids will discover that most of life is not fireworks and Ferraris but Hondas and humdrum. But that’s okay, because it’s in the average that God hides himself. He gives us this day our daily bread, our daily job, our daily commute, our daily chores, our daily shower and couch-time and bedtimes stories. There, ensconced in the ordinary, hides the extraordinary God.
It’s okay to be an average parent. In fact, though seemingly lowly, it’s a high and holy calling. As we care for our children in simple, everyday ways, we’re a mask for our heavenly Father.
His Son was perfect for all of us, that we might enjoy the freedom of a life in which we let Marvel and DC worry about the heroes.