Parental Guilt… I’m pretty sure I ruined them…

It happens at night. The weight. The worry. The prayer. Mulling over that one parenting decision – would it lead our child to greatness? Or would this one decision be the very thing that leads them down a path into a life of crime, despair, maybe even treason?

Sometimes I can reason myself out of it. Elsa, letting the kids stay up to watch Lion King is just fine. Chill out. 

And sometimes I beat myself up. But in Lion King, Mufasa gets trampled! Trampled! What kind of irreparable psychological damage are you doing to these poor children?

And the guilt comes. 

Or when our child messes up and we find a way to fault ourselves. Or others find a way to fault us.  “It’s the tale of two kids,” my friend said to me. “One child made me look like an amazing mom, the other made me look like an idiot.”

She went on to tell me that her older daughter went through school and was a problem child throughout. She wrestled with mental illness and made a boatload of poor decisions. When my friend would go in to see teachers, she would feel the judgement and criticism pouring out of their eyes. That’s just bad parenting.

Then came her son. Honor roll student, kind and respectful, a true gentleman. She went in to his school and received a completely different reaction. “He’s amazing – you’re such a great mom!” 

“I think we take way too much credit, and way too much blame,” she said to me.

I identify with that remark.

When my kids are clicking on all cylinders, I feel that pride sneak in. I must be doing alright, I think to myself. Maybe not parent of the year, but maybe parent of today, or at least parent of this five minute window!

When they go sideways, make a lousy decision, head down a broken path, dress weird, eat funky, think strange, push boundaries – I feel the condemnation rebounding through my thoughts.

I’m too strict, that’s why they’re going wild.

I’m too lenient, that’s why they’re veering south.

I let them eat too many Oreos.

None of us eat enough Oreos.

I start the litany. I don’t teach them well enough to… handle social media, cook a meal, navigate TV choices, be a good friend, spend money, love well, choose Jesus, fight peer pressure, figure out puberty, understand sexuality, read a book, care about others. 

I’m not doing…. enough.

I don’t know how any of us could. Do enough, I mean.  And even if we did everything perfectly, our kids are individuals with their own personality, strengths, weaknesses, story. We can’t control the outcome of our parenting any more than we can control the wind.

They grow up to be their own people.

And then I look at God. He gave his kids literally everything. Shoot, they had the Garden of Eden, named animals, danced around naked, had a grand ol’ time. And then within an incredibly short period of time, they blazed their own broken path. They thought they knew better. They did their own thing. Perfect parent, imperfect kids.

Thankfully that parent had a plan. A plan to bring hope out of the deepest messes. So whether the mess is our own parenting or the path our child chooses, as we look to him, our God has us all in hand. He still has a plan. If perfect love couldn’t create perfect children, maybe we should give ourselves (…and the parents around us …and the kids around us) a break as well. Maybe we should trust their imperfect path to the perfect love that holds them, and us, fast.

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for this! I can relate so much. I have never thought of God being the perfect parent and us being the imperfect children! That is encouraging and consoling.

  2. Well said – as a teacher I always maintained that a parent could do all the right things and end up with a child who was all wrong and you could do all the wrong things and end up with the best child! So, the Lord is in charge, and He will take care of everything in the end.

    1. Alona, thank you for commenting! Yes, my parents did a good job and I went south for a good, long while. And I’ve seen amazing people who have done exceptionally well despite poor parenting. Parenting certainly matters, and we want to do it well, but in the end we have to trust that God will watch over them!

  3. Humanity’s imperfect path to perfect love. Wonderful, as always, Elsa, how you show us the love of the Lord.

  4. I can beat myself up for my children’s choices, but I am learning to trust God with them. I gave them to Him when they were little. Now that they are grown I believe that God hears my prayers and will answer in His perfect time. I am His and they are His. What can bring more peace than that?! Thank you Elsa. Your writing always bring richness and blessings. You are a godly Mom. Your children are blessed.

    1. Arleen, that’s a great place to land! Trusting God through it all. Thanks for reading, and sharing your heart!

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