I have high expectations for myself, especially as I learn more about child development. And that's where the shoulds tend to creep in. The kids should have less screen time. The kids should do more chores. I should spend more time reading to them. I should make sure they have more educational opportunities/play. They are learning from my example, so I should always be patient and kind and gentle and empathetic.
Should, should, should.
But the crushing truth of it is, I can’t do it all. I just can’t. On my own, I am not enough. I cannot provide a perfect environment at all times, no matter how much I believe they deserve it and would benefit from it.
Instead, my kids have to live every day with my imperfections and screw ups. I do my best, and it still doesn't feel good enough. They bear the brunt of my impatience and frustration. They see me escaping in front of a computer screen way too much. I try to implement chore charts and screen time rules, and it all falls flat on its face over and over again. There are days where I feel so exhausted just from parenting that I let them keep the Wii on for an extra hour so I can collapse in a heap on the couch for a little while. I try to instill patience and kindness and unselfishness, and then I yell or say something unkind or snap because I just want something to go MY way.
I feel like a hypocrite.
I fear that I’m screwing them up developmentally, setting them up for bad habits, teaching them negative attitudes and responses... because I am SO far from perfect in the examples I set for them.
I want my children to be generous and unselfish, to help others, to treat others with love and respect, to be patient, to be responsible and hard-working, to sincerely seek to make amends when they've wronged someone.
As I wrote that, it struck me that I put “sincerely seek to make amends when they've wronged someone” on the list. And for all the things I feel like I mess up, this is one I feel like I do pretty well. When I realize I have wronged them (with my words, actions, or attitude), I sincerely apologize. I identify exactly what I did and why it was wrong, I explain what I should have done instead, and I seek to make amends. They have heard me do this many, many times and I’m sure they’ll hear it many more times. That, at least, is a good example I feel like I’m setting for them. But it bothers me that I have to mess up at these other important things in order to set that example! I worry that I will fail to teach the other positive qualities I want them to have.
Love, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, all those things are impossible for me to perfectly attain. And if I can't do it as an adult... immature and still-developing children certainly can't either. Truth is, when my kids mess up, I can identify with them... because even as an adult, I’m there too.
Yet I’m still loved and accepted, I’m still forgiven, I’m still a recipient of God's grace.
Perhaps my children and I are gaining a deeper understanding of grace, mercy, and forgiveness... and we learn these things as we mess up, or break the rules, or have an attitude, or act selfishly and impatiently.
And maybe our screw-ups and immaturity are necessary components of understanding God’s grace and allowing love and humility to take root in our lives.
Perhaps instead of feeling angry with myself for falling short of my ideals so often, I could “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me... For when I am weak, then I am strong."