Behold, I Tell You a (Parenting) Mystery

I was talking recently with a friend about his frustrations with an older child’s reckless behavior.

“We did it by the book, Tim.  We were the perfect parents – what happened?”

I wouldn’t argue with him.  He and his wife are wonderful people and great parents.  His comments call to mind one of the mystifying dynamics of family life.

There are great parents who’ve had very difficult kids.  It’s possible for disastrous parents to end up with model kids.

There are also disastrous parents with problematic kids.  And many of us know model parents with model kids.

There are hundreds of things to say about parenting.  I’m not trying to undermine them or add to them.  I think we ought to pursue growth as parents and nurture our families thoughtfully and intentionally.

This is merely an observation: Life is complicated.   There are no guaranteed outcomes. 

No matter the environment, we’re all sinful, broken people in need of God’s grace and one another’s love.

It just seems to me that the first step toward being perfect parents and raising perfect kids is throwing out that notion as a foolish idolatry.

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5 responses to “Behold, I Tell You a (Parenting) Mystery

  • Becky

    So true! I think the best thing I can do as a parent is point out to my kids when I make mistakes and apologize for screwing up as a parent. Especially for my little perfectionist (you know the one).

    • timgombis

      That sort of mutuality bears far more good fruit than a top-down relationship that can be stifling and create some seriously angry kids. And it also invites more “complicated” kids to be themselves. If they see parents trying to figure themselves out, it gives them the freedom to not be perfect, to fail, to grow by experimentation.

  • geowood72

    “…the first step toward being perfect parents and raising perfect kids is throwing out that notion as a foolish idolatry”. That’s got to be difficult to hear for some, because, for a parent in the midst of raising kids, it doesn’t *feel* like idolatry; it feels like you’re giving everything in hopes of tapping into God’s best for your family. But in the end, I think you’re right (I speak as a father of 7, ranging in age from 40 to 28, and grandfather of 13, ages 16 years to 6 months — with another due in Dec, and another in April!).

    • timgombis

      Well-put! Idolatries never feel like it, do they? They’re always (apparently) well-motivated. But they stem from the desire to achieve an apparently good goal through inappropriate means, or to try to guarantee results through manipulation, control, or by forcing God’s hand.

      Being perfect parents is not at all a good goal, nor one that God has for us. And raising perfect kids isn’t, either. They’ll never meet our expectations or our unrealistic standards. That just isn’t how relationships work.

      As Stanley Hauerwas puts it, raising kids is truly welcoming strangers into our homes, and we’re privileged to watch them become who they are. In the same way, we give them space as they provide the pressures to transform us, too!

  • Allen Browne

    Hmm. Fallen humans reproducing after our own kind: children “in our own likeness” (Gen 5:2).
    Do we take that seriously enough when we set expectations for ourselves and our children? Lots of grace-opportunities: as parents, children, and communities.

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