A friend and I met for a coffee a few weeks ago.
It was blissful to get away from our messy houses and the general chaos of life with small children, but, alas, our conversation did not stray far from messy houses and life with small children.
We sat there for nearly two hours, dissecting our various parenting challenges, and at the end of nearly every paragraph of conversation, I heard myself say, “This job is just too hard for me.”
And, I promise, I wasn’t being overly dramatic or needlessly self-depreciating.
This job, attempting to train three miniature human beings to be responsible, kind, God-loving citizens of heaven and earth, is absolutely too hard for me.
The situations that arise—the who-hit-whos, the floppy-armed fits (a Hattie favorite), and the boy who I frequently find in the bathroom sink or munching on dog food—leave me completely uncertain of my parenting.
Just to spell it out here, I do not know what I’m doing.
As I approach my nearly sixth year of parenting, I have had several of these moments when I look at these little people looking back at me, and I realize with horror (that I hope I disguise well), “Oh. My. Goodness. They think I know what I’m doing!”
They have no idea that I’ve never done this before.
For all they know I was born a parent with the Parent’s Guide to Parenting already downloaded into my brain.
They don’t realize that I still haven’t figured out the best way to handle a tattletail. Or a biter.
Or how to discreetly deflect childish comments about the generously sized man a few tables away.
Or what to do when somebody else’s kid hurts mine (or vice versa.)
My kids don’t know I’m praying for wisdom fifteen times a day. (Or maybe they do. Sometimes it just comes out.)
I want to be a good parent.
I want to show gentleness and love and mercy and justice in all situations.
I want to always know the right thing to do.
But, sometimes, I just don’t.
I compare myself with my parents and how they did things. Which is reasonable, I think, since they’re the only consistent examples I’ve ever seen of parenting in action.
And, thankfully, my parents were (and are) quite amazing.
They taught us budgeting practically from the womb. They held weekly family meetings, had “Family Night” and read daily family devotions.
Their chore assignments and Dad’s infamous “Book of Rules” (which can still be viewed in the Smith family archives, by the way) left no room for argumentation. They spent evenings with us and not in front of the TV. They lead us to Christ.
In short, they were wonderful, loving parents.
They were not perfect.
In these times when I’m reflecting back on my childhood for guidance on how to handle my own kids, I can sometimes spot where mistakes were made. There were moments when they didn’t handle something right, or they responded poorly, or justice wasn’t served.
If I dwell too long, I find that those moments really start to bug me. I end up dissecting them and vowing to do differently. (Hominy will never be served at my table. Period.)
And, if I really let my thoughts go unfiltered, I can become angry. I can get bitter. I start wanting to demand answers and hear apologizes. I want to know why they did what they did, and I want them to know how it affects me now. How it affects my parenting now.
Honestly, I want someone to blame.
Smith legend tells of my youngest brother, Luke (seen above in the clip-on tie), toddling around our house wearing only his little briefs.
My mom, noticing a problem, pointed it out. “Son, you have your undies on backwards.”
Luke, who was probably about three at the time, was not about to have his intellect so insulted.
“Mom,” he responded quickly, “you put them in my drawer backwards.”
Blaming our parents is easy to do.
Because, heck! They were the parents!
They were the adults!
They should have realized what they were doing and how it was going to screw us up down the road.
They should have known better!
Because good parents who love their children should always know what they’re doing, right?
Good parents don’t always know what they’re doing.
Mine didn’t. Neither did yours.
Neither do we.
Blaming our folks is a three-year-old’s game. It’s easy to do and it comes quite naturally, but it’s completely illogical.
So let’s take the good they taught us. Toss the bad. And pray our heads off.
‘Cause this job is too hard for us alone.
We need Jesus. We need each other. And we don’t need a lot of blame.