Wednesday, May 4, 2011

God Doesn't Intend for Me to Be a Perfect Parent

I learned a valuable lesson recently while traveling on a choir trip as a chaperone for my oldest son’s choir.  To put it mildly, the choir teacher was a cranky old lady that had a habit of regularly yelling at the kids and was not big on compliments.  My first reaction was to complain to the school but I didn’t feel that would be the right thing to do.  After the choir trip, I asked my son about his teacher.  His words were, “I love Ms. _____!”  I was shocked by his response.  He did admit that in his junior year he was afraid of her, but in his current senior year he has made it his job to make this teacher smile.  He isn’t always successful, but this effort towards his teacher has helped him to love her.  He has become able to look past her flaws and see the wonderful parts in her; the amazing things she brings out in her choir and the softness under the outer gruffness. 

The mother bear instinct in me wanted to protect my son and these kids that I grew to love over our 5 day trip.  What my son taught me is that he didn’t need protecting.  In fact, if I had been more aware of his fear of this teacher in his junior year and tried to protect him, I would have done him a great disservice!  What I have come to realize is that my children were put here on this earth to learn and grow through their challenges just as I learn through mine.  The normal reaction to protect my children is important in some situations like protecting them from physical harm or abuse, but much of the time I think I need to step back.  

Hebrews 12:10-11 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peacable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

In order to raise “righteous” kids they need opposition in their lives.  The hardest things in our lives are the things that refine and purify both me and my children.  

Malachi 3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

One thing that really helps me put my children’s struggles in perspective is looking back on my own struggles.  My childhood was not easy; it was filled with abandonment, rejection, and uncertainty.  I look back at those things and I can see specifically how those things made me a better parent and person.  It gives me confidence that my children’s struggles will do the same for them.  

This idea also takes away a lot of guilt; I don’t have to be a perfect parent.  In fact if I was, it would hinder my children’s progress in righteousness.  Because of my own childhood, I have really tried to make sure my kids don’t have to struggle with the same things I did. One of the things I have felt most strongly about is raising them in an atmosphere where they can gain their own personal testimonies of the Savior.  This is the foundation they need to get through their trials in life and be happy.  When they know in their hearts that God lives and they feel the joy of doing right, it guides their choices.

I have done a lot of good things with my kids like weekly family night, daily family scripture study, scripture memorization, and daily family prayer but I have failed in some areas.  I had 6 kids in 9 years. Most good Christian parents teach their children to say their prayers at bedtime.  Being so exhausted by the end of the day, this practice was “hit and miss”.  Sometimes I feel a lot of guilt that I have not trained them better in that area but I have been very lucky.  I have teenagers with testimonies of their own and who act accordingly.  Some of my children pray every night on their own accord.   A couple of years ago, my children turned to praying, fasting, and personal scripture reading in the biggest challenge our family has ever faced.

I feel that through the grace of Christ, my weaknesses as a parent have been made up in some of these areas.  I believe he makes up for my parenting weaknesses on my children’s behalf. 

2 Corinthians 12 9-10 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

It takes away so much guilt to know that I don’t have to be a perfect parent.  To know that Christ’s grace is sufficient for me, not only as a sinner but as a parent.  To also realize that the process of turning my weaknesses into strengths takes time and that some of my parenting was done with those normal weaknesses intact.  We can all look back and see things we did wrong in the past and would probably do different today.  This is OK!  This is part of God’s plan for our children; to help them grow through their adversity, even if their adversity is sometimes me!  God doesn’t intend for me (or my spouse) to be perfect a parent!