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.