Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning to Live With Imperfection: A Two-Way Street

"Soon after [toddlerhood], he learns right from wrong and has to process his own failures and feelings of 'not being good enough.' He also learns that you aren't the perfect parent, and he learns to accept and work with someone who is also 'not good enough.' Forgiveness becomes a reality. Anger toward and love of the same person is a developmental milestone. He learns that there is not a 'good mom' and a 'bad mom.' Or a 'good me' and a 'bad me.' There is a 'good and bad me' and a 'good and bad you.' He is building frustration tolerance with himself and others. And that milestone gives him the ability to be imperfect and have relationships with imperfect people--a skill that serves him for life."
          --Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Raising Great Kids: Parenting With Grace and Truth

This principle of the duality within me as a parent is the truth I'm learning to embrace, and I needed the reminder this morning. A rough start to the day with Ben left me off-kilter--not to the same extent that the same exchange would have a year or two ago--but still with questions and doubts and feelings that the conflict could have gone better. I assert again that parenting is hard, hard work at times, and not always clear. The only constant is the imperfection of all parties and the undeniable need for love, which covers a multitude of sins, in all circumstances.

I think at times I worry that there is no room for my own sin and inconsistency as a parent, as though somehow, to do the job "right," I can never make a mistake. I don't think I had considered that by living with me, a "good and bad" me, my kids learn how to forgive and extend grace to others in their life. By seeing my own failure and, in many circumstances, repentance, my kids learn to own their own failures and to repent. I will never be perfect in this life, and so I have the opportunity to model how to handle our imperfections. I suppose the key is to recognize when I am wrong so I can confess my errors to my kids and seek forgiveness. That confession brings healing to the situation. The truth-telling of where I sinned in the conflict sets us all free.

I take comfort in this idea of imperfect kids learning to live with imperfect parents and, in turn, an imperfect world. And as my kids learn to accept a mom that makes mistakes and comes up short of the ideal, I am learning to embrace the reality of imperfect kids. I'm not sure where I got the idea that kids should be "good kids" all the time, but it's a lie that I'm better able to recognize and relinquish day by day. In failure, we have greater opportunity to love. Forgiveness, grace, and mercy are powerful mentors. 

In the end, we are all prodigals, and the point of that parable is not that the son should never have left, should never have failed, but that the Father's love remained constant, and abundant, regardless. May I have the wisdom and grace to lavish my kids with such love, and may they return the same love in the face of my own faults. 

In so many ways, they already do.

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