One of my greatest fears is to ruin my kids with my parenting.
You don’t have to be a parent to understand that fear. But when you are one, it just makes it more visceral, possible—real.
I’ve got two sons. They’re great. They love to play, roughhouse, laugh—all the good stuff kids typically do.
There are times when they misbehave. But that’s not the worst part.
I do, too. I get angry at them, and it’s wrong.
I’m not saying all anger is wrong. It’s not. Sometimes it’s right to be angry when your child disobeys you or does something bad for themselves or others.
And it must be dealt with, disciplined. But it needn’t be done angrily.
That’s where I fail. Instead of responding, sometimes I react. Instead of talking, sometimes I yell. Instead of instructing, sometimes I scold.
Yeah, I know. I’m failing.
But it’s not all of the time. I’m getting better. I do all of that reacting less and less, or, at least, I hope so.
And, there are some things that my kids and I do that are gloriously good.
These days, my firstborn and I go for bike rides. We ride all over the neighborhood. He leads the way. He’s trying new things like riding and taking his hand off of the handlebar or going with no feet on the pedals or pedaling while standing up. And I applaud him and celebrate his accomplishments. I shower him with encouragement.
Those are the best days.
I know that no father is perfect. But I want to improve my imperfections as each day passes. I want my son to have more happy days than sad. And when I must discipline him, I want to do it in a manner that is loving and true and good.
If you’re a parent and feel like you are failing your child, remember this.
All of our parents failed us in some form or fashion. I don’t know anyone who grew up with perfect parents, with a leave-it-to-beaver family, whatever that is. I certainly didn’t grow up that way.
And, really, who said parenthood was about perfection. Being perfect doesn’t work; life’s too messy for that. That’s why we should change the way we think about parenting.
It’s in the depths of imperfection and failings that we have the opportunity to choose to grow. It’s where we get to realize we were wrong and course-correct. It’s where we learn to become better fathers, mothers—parents.
To be a better father isn’t about always being right or good. I find it’s often about knowing when you’re wrong and admitting to it—and even being willing to ask your kid to forgive you for being an ass, temperamental, wrong.
It’s in the wrongness where we can be the most right. It’s in our worst where we can be our best. It’s when we fail as parents that we have the opportunity to succeed in parenting.
No, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about being perfected. It’s about being humble enough to realize we are all in process.
And if you do that, you may not be the “perfect” parent, but you will be a good one. You will bring out of the best in your child by admitting to your worst.
Because, really, parenting is less about failing or succeeding, and more about this.
If you do that, you won’t ruin your kids. Even with all of your failings, you’ll raise them well.