Falling Into Grace: or, Why Parents Don’t Have to be Perfect

You may have heard of the “Mommy Wars.”

Perhaps some single people in the world of professional sports, or international politics, or Wall Street, are so deeply embroiled in their careers that only faint echoes of this term have ever reached their ears. Maybe a few tribal peoples residing deep in the remote jungles of Africa are unaware of its existence. For most of us, though — even those of us fortunate enough to be surrounded by non-judgmental, non-competitive mom friends — the Mommy Wars are as familiar as the Golden Arches or “Let it Go.”

Many of us recoil at the phrase — yet, if we dare to brave any Internet forum or Facebook comment section related to parenting, we quickly discover that a frighteningly large percentage of mothers are eager to join the fray.

Obviously, as depicted touchingly (or perhaps nauseatingly – you decide) in a recent video that flooded Facebook for days, even the most militant mothers (and fathers, by the way) really just want the best for their children. Co-sleep or cry it out? Stay at home or maintain a career? Two kids or seven? Homeschool or public school? Parents weigh the various options, sometimes agonizing over them, sometimes adjusting them, and ultimately making their choices with the belief that these choices will best serve the young humans in their care.

Why all the hostility, then? If we really believe in every parent’s good intentions, whence comes the nastiness that characterizes most conversations on parenting issues ranging from the monumental to the miniscule?

Well…probably a number of things. I sense, however, that the intensity of the disagreements — the terrier-like tenacity that leads total strangers to argue online for hours with a devotion they probably never showed when assigned to write persuasive papers in college — springs from the belief that our parenting choices will settle the fate of our children irrevocably. In our hands, we hold our children’s destiny…or…their DOOM.

Now, I freely admit that I have views of my own. Strong views, in several instances. I believe that our parenting choices make a difference, and I want to do the best I can with the children God has entrusted to me.

However

I am only human. You are only human. Think about this: If we control our children’s fates, and our well-intentioned choices are the sole determinants of whether or not they will grow into well-adjusted and successful adults…is there any hope at all?

Maybe you have enough confidence in your abilities, your research, and your problem-solving skills to answer that question with a “yes.” If you’re like every mom I’ve ever talked to, though, you probably second-guess yourself occasionally. You probably have bad days. And maybe…just maybe…you’re hoping for some grace to overcome those areas in which you’re not sure of being all you wish you could be.

In general, I consider myself ill-equipped to dole out parenting tips, and therefore avoid doing so. However, seven years of parenting have taught me to have absolute confidence in one thing…and I want to share it with you. God’s grace means you don’t have to be perfect.

That’s right. Even if somehow, against all odds, you do everything exactly wrong (whatever that even means), God is bigger than our failures. In fact, our failures are often where we see Him most clearly, if we have the courage to look beyond ourselves…beyond our worries…beyond our stubborn self-reliance…to see the God who tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” He loves our children even more than we do, and is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” regarding His precious creations.

Kind of scary, isn’t it? To acknowledge that we might not have complete control over how our children will turn out? I won’t deny that, in my pride, I sometimes like to imagine that I can craft my kids to be “just right” if only I try hard enough. That is not, however, the message of the Gospel — for ourselves, for our children, or for other people’s children.

Whenever I move past my insistence that my way is the only way…and my sinful tendency to look askance at parents whose decisions don’t line up with my ideals…I rejoice that ultimately, my kids (and everybody else’s kids) are in much more capable hands than my own. That none of my failures are beyond the reach of God’s grace. That I am not really in control after all. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

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2 thoughts on “Falling Into Grace: or, Why Parents Don’t Have to be Perfect

  1. “Kind of scary, isn’t it? To acknowledge that we might not have complete control over how our children will turn out?” This is a thought I need to meditate upon much more than I do, both to incite myself to pray for my children more and to regard others with greater charity in their parenting choices! Thanks for the encouraging read!

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