Mom And Dad, You Suck At Parenting (Join the Club)

Ah, the innocence of youth.

There’s a powerful myth that we all believed as children; not of Santa Claus or The Tooth Fairy or The Great Pumpkin or Sea Monkeys.

It’s the one that made us believe that our parents had a freakin’ clue.

Growing-up, although I couldn’t quite verbalize it at the time, I always operated under the assumption that these people caring for me must know what they’re doing or they wouldn’t have been given the job—right?

There was security throughout my early childhood, in my unwavering belief that my parents always knew just what to do. (Until somewhere around Middle School of course, at which time I became quite brilliant and turned my attention toward perfecting their rather suspect childrearing skills myself).

As a young boy, I remember looking-up to my parents as these monumental, wise, strong, unstoppable, unflappable superheroes. Little did I know they were just exhausted, worried, freaked out mortals, doing their very best to fit into the costume, while cleaning vomit from between the couch cushions.

I always used to joke that when I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child, I immediately started saving up for his therapy. I laughed then, but many days since, I’ve realized in a sweaty panic, just how woefully underfunded this account now is.


Mom and Dad, I know how often you hear those words in your head.

I know how easy they are to wear in times of disappointment, rejection, and sadness.

I know how many days you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What on earth am I doing here?” and you get the answer back, “Failing, that’s what you’re doing.”

I know the way you can be in the middle of the frantic, monotonous, sleep-depriving haze of daily life, and suddenly get smacked in the face by the terrifying knowledge that you have just completely botched things:

You’ve said something mean or hateful to your kids that you’re afraid will stick to their souls forever.
You’ve lost your temper in a Hulk-style grocery store rage-out and seen the abject terror in their eyes.
You’ve made a stupid decision in haste or ignorance or bad judgment and you just know it’s going to hurt them.

Welcome to the Sucky Parents Club. We’ve been expecting you.

The truth is, Mom and Dad, you do suck at parenting—if only for a moment, or a day, or maybe a really difficult season. We all do.

Yes, you’ve failed miserably and chosen poorly at times, and yes the things you’ve said and done absolutely will do damage to your children and there’s really nothing you can do about that.

But being perfect was never the goal, or at least it shouldn’t have been. You haven’t been called to perfection, you’ve been called to parenthood—you’ve been called to be present.

You’ve signed-up for the ridiculously Herculean task of trying to continually train, teach, protect, counsel, love, shepherd, and guide one or more free-spirited, inconsistent, flawed, moody, rebellious, gassy, imperfect beings, while being one yourself. What do you expect?

There’s no perfect model, no magic manual, and there’s no sure-fire path to avoiding these gloriously sucktastic moments of parenting failure. All you can do is wipe the tears away, shake off the shame, and keep going.

Parents, I don’t want you to stop trying. I don’t want you to do anything less, than everything you can to get it right with your kids; to choose wisely, and live decently, and love relentlessly.

Be available for your children every moment that you possibly can.
Go to their games and watch their recitals and attend their award ceremonies, (even the made-up ones in preschool).
Ask them questions, and then really listen to them. (Listen for the stuff they’re afraid to tell you, too).
Say the hard words and give the soft caresses.
Sacrifice for them, root for them, and try to find that impossible balance between helping them fly and letting them fall.
Read, learn, solicit advice, and treat your job as parent like it’s the greatest and most important one you’ll ever have (because it certainly is).

Moms and Dads, I don’t want to give you license to phone it in or half-bake it.

And I don’t want to let you off the hook from trying to be a spectacular superhero parent.

I just want to give you permission to suck sometimes. 



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16 thoughts on “Mom And Dad, You Suck At Parenting (Join the Club)

  1. Oh, how I love your words of wisdom, here and on nearly everything you write on your blog! (And I am so hoping that one kid is really a doll. But the look on mom’s face says otherwise.)

  2. Good stuff! Even though I’m at a point where two out of my three children are grown and out of the house, this is a good reminder. Because, it is at this stage that one typically looks back and wrestles with the “what if” questions that drive one crazy. Gotta leave it in God’s hands.

  3. A friend of mine, quite possibly the best clinical psychologist on the planet, says that you do not need to be a perfect parent. All you need to be is good “enough.”

    He was saying, more or less, that there is what statisticians often refer to as a “sectioning point” or threshold line in the lives of parents and their children. And depending on personalities and family situations, the location of that line in the sand may be different in each family. That line is the “good enough” line. If you can stay within the boundary it sets, your child will not grow up to be a school shooter, Jeffrey Dahmer, the bully that steals someone’s lunch money, or a narcissistic cancer growing on the side of humanity. Spend significant time outside that boundary with your child, and you get some smaller or greater version of the following:

    Whenever a school shooting occurs, it is referred to by some talking head in the news media as a “senseless crime.” The family looked so normal and loving. He was such a nice kid—but he was sort of a loner. We have all heard this—but the big problem is—it is just not true—not really.

    Clinical psychologists KNOW how kids get this way. They KNOW. The problem is that no one in the legal system, no one in the news media, and no one on the street listens to them and what decades of research have shown. Instead, we want to talk about Biblical evil. We want to say,”He was a nice kid, but he just snapped one day.” We want to talk all the colloquial nonsense that makes us feel comfortably uncomfortable.

    A family can look normal to outsiders. It works just like you do on the day you go to the breakfast table and see a note left by your husband, “I want a divorce now.” You have to be at the office in an hour. Inside you are in turmoil—an emotional wreck—you want to love—you want to kill—you want to scream—you feel like your head is about to explode. But you cannot show this at work. Instead, you have to put on your “good ole everyday Alice face” at work and pretend like your world is not falling apart.

    This is what is going on in the school shooter household. For the rest of the world, the family puts on a nice face. They look like any normal family. You would never suspect a thing is wrong. No one beats anyone. No one pulls a gun on anyone at home. No one is taking illegal drugs. However, inside the brain pans of the people living in that house, life is an emotional nightmare—a living Hell—and one day one of those brains is no longer able to contain all of the anguish and pain—and it takes a gun to school.

    So, the next time you hear a TV anchor talk about a senseless crime committed by a member of that nice family on Oak Street, rest assured that it was not senseless. They KNOW why this kid committed the crime. It is just the fact that no one listens to those who KNOW.

    And all those kids from families where all that brain pan Hell is externalized in the form of beatings, torture, drug use, etc. They are just the ones who are not good at hiding all the pain from the outside world.

  4. Dad, don’t hate me if I can’t “make love” to girls like you. I love guys a lot, to the point where, although they too are imperfect, flawed mortals themselves, are the superheroes and role models I aspire to be myself.

    And Mom, I know you’ve been through A LOT in your own upbringing and in your life, but, despite your fierce beliefs to confirm to the church’s teachings that I’m a God-awful sinner, even you sin too and have no right to judge who I am.

    You and Dad gave me the greatest gift that you could have given me — life, despite every obstacle you have both overcome, saying every day, “You can’t make it,” “You’re a fool,” etc.

    Others may point and sneer, remarking, “How dare you raise such a crippled son,” but let it be known that I AM YOUR CRIPPLED SON, NO MATTER WHAT.

    I still love you and respect you guys a lot, even when we fight and disagree, but if you truly love me, you will see that I am now who I am fully created to be, and that God loves me too, no matter my disability, or my attractions. <3

    Thank you for writing, Pastor John. You've taken all the precise words out of my mouth.

    God bless you too,

    Josh in California

      • Thank you Connie. I have cerebral palsy, so I understand life can be very depressing at times, and can also be a very precious gift to cherish. It’s just painful to tell my loved ones I have bi-romantic/bi-curious attractions, because they’ll usually condemn my “queer” side, and I still feel like I have to suppress it or be cured of it, like my disability. But I’m also learning how to continuously count my blessings. Because we all too often neglect our blessings and embrace our curses.

        I’m a young man in college right now (hi!), but many admire how I speak with such maturity. In retrospect, the trials I’ve been through, since childhood, have matured me greatly in the process. And I now believe that all my friends — even those who don’t like me — can also learn (and be reminded about) a few things about humility. 🙂

  5. I am a member of the Sucky Parents Club too but stand on the side of now having raised my two sons. I will be praying hard that as they move into parenthood someday soon, I will be able to advise them that somedays are just like you described above but being a parent is the greatest gift I have been given. I am humbled to share the space with you today at Karilee’s place and blessed to read your words. Mary

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  7. One child, my always Smiling 7yo Son is in his room balling his head off. He adores me. He worships the very ground I walk on. But just now he blew it and I snapped at him. He deserved it, but with less harshness. He isn’t crying because he blew it, he’s crying because he disappointed his Dad. A sick feeling rises up inside of me and I look over at my Daring, Dynamic 10yo Daughter. Her eyes are downcast and her heart hearts. She did nothing wrong, but she adores her little brother and his cries are breaking her heart. My sick feeling turns to anguish. I just want to go hide.

    Once again, I don’t feel so alone when I read your blog.

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