I was a great mom before I had kids.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was bound and determined to be the best mom ever. My kids would be perfect — smart, beautiful, obedient, and always well-behaved because, well, they would have the perfect mom.
And so I prepared. I read all the books and did all the research. But I didn’t even get out of infancy stage before discovering how many discrepancies there were between child rearing methods.
At one point Eric threatened to set fire to all the parenting books. I couldn’t decide whether to pick my baby up every time he cried or let him cry it out. Whether to swear off pacifiers and bottles or use them. Whether to nurse on demand or put my baby on a schedule.
And I didn’t even have a baby yet!
When my firstborn was just a few months old, I already felt like a failure.
I wasn’t the mom I thought I’d be. Things weren’t like the breezy romantic dream that I’d imagined motherhood to be. By the time my child was two, I was sure I’d already screwed him up for life.
Add three more kids to the mix and my dreams of perfect parenting died a little more each day.
I was still reading, researching, trying new methods and learning all I could about how to be the best parent I could be. But every day I messed up. Still do.
I yell. I say things I don’t mean. I get angry. I forget important things and fail to keep promises. I get tired and don’t follow through. I make empty threats.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still doing lots of good things. I’ve even finally reached a point (well past 40) where I actually believe I’m a good mother.
But I’m also pretty sure that at some point in their lives, my kids are gonna need some therapy so they can work through all my parenting mistakes.
Most days I feel like I’m screwing up my kids.
I think the majority of good parents probably feel the same way. At least I hope I’m not the only one.
How to Not Screw Up Your Kids
A couple of weeks ago we were watching Parenthood (my favorite TV drama), and the character Julia — who is separated from her husband, Joel — was talking to her Dad (Zeek Braverman, played by Craig T. Nelson) about raising kids.
The scene went like this:
Zeek: So, how are you doing, kid?
Julia: Oh, just doing what I do. Ruining my kids’ lives.
Zeek: Parents screw their kids up, that’s just the way it is, honey. It’s been that way since time began I think. It doesn’t matter. . . married, divorced, whatever. You’re gonna screw ’em up. It’s the nature of it, you know. So don’t think you’re so special. Honey, the only way not to screw ’em up is not to have ’em. What a shame that would be.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Nobody’s perfect, which means there won’t ever be any perfect parents, or perfect kids. All of us need therapy. We all have issues. It’s the nature of things here in this broken world.
But to not live, to not experience all that life has to offer, to not squeeze every drop out of the days we’re given, well, that would be a shame.
Life’s gonna be messy and dysfunctional and hard to manage. I’m going to make mistakes — as a parent and as a person — no matter how hard I try to do things right.
So will you.
But the fear of screwing things up doesn’t need to keep us waiting on the sidelines. There’s no good in being a wallflower in this dance we call life. The whole point is to get out there and dance, do whatever it is you’re meant to do, and know going into it that you’re gonna make a mess.
If you’re raising kids, I can guarantee that at some point you’re gonna screw them up. . . at least a little.
Just make sure that you’re also loving them, teaching them, enjoying them, experiencing real life with them.
As the tagline of this blog says, “Life’s a song that’s meant to be sung.” That’s the whole reason I started writing. I want to spread the message that you need to be living your life — the way God intended when He made you. With joy and gusto and passion — and yes, even making mistakes along the way.
The only way to not mess up is to never live.
And in the words of Zeek Braverman, “What a shame that would be.”
If you’d like to see the entire episode of Parenthood, you can check it out here. The scene between Julia and Zeek takes place about 12 minutes from the end. It is true TV greatness.