Then again, I wonder if any of you are thinking, “I already know how. Yep, that’s me! The Perfect Parent!” (That would make us worry all the more about your approach to parenting, yes?) I have no doubt some of you ARE indeed a WONDER, but there’s this funny thing about Perfection—it’s elusive, like a beautiful rainbow, always sitting out there inspiring you but never for a second intending to be caught and held down!
Don’t we all have the greatest desire deep down to be AMAZING at being a PARENT?! Maybe even—if it were possible—PERFECT at it!- For our children’s a sake!!!
Doesn’t this quote capture what your heart knows is true?
“You have nothing in this world more precious than your children. When you grow old, when your hair turns white and your body grows weary, when you are prone to sit in a rocker and meditate on the things of your life, nothing will be so important as the question of how your children have turned out. It will not be the money you have made. It will not be the cars you have owned. It will not be the large house in which you live. The searing question that will cross your mind again and again will be, ‘How well have my children done?’”
— Gordon B. Hinkley
Your Greatest Challenge, Mothers
Check out the entire talk, it’s AMAZING! I suppose there are many more of you out there who feel as I do, about as far from perfection as one could get—especially when it comes to one of the most urgent and important aspects of life, PARENTING!!
If there is any one thing I have learned from being a daughter myself and now being a parent of ten, it is that perfection has nothing to do with family life! People have commented to us, “You are the picture perfect family”, they continue, “you must be perfect parents”. But I know otherwise. The way to get that picture of perfection in the end is straight through imperfection!! The way to get great results in the family is straight through those precious, idiosyncratic, crazy, close-to-the-heart challenges brought on by each new day, each new child and every new, different and difficult situation that marriage and family and life can strum up! It’s the daily turmoil that brings us in the end to a beautiful scene of family—that beautiful family picture, with a whole, big story of imperfect people striving to love each other in an imperfect world behind it.
I’ve learned that most the story of a picture is behind the scenes anyway. And if any of you have been behind the scenes in a play or on set, you KNOW what that means! A TON of work, consciousness of details no one watching thinks about, messy! TONS of preparation, and quite a bit of craziness!
When our Emily and Anna were just babies, they were hired as baby twins on the set of a family movie. A scene was put together of a family (though in real life not one of the actors were related). The little boy chosen for the part of “the little boy” was being TERRIBLE; Running non-stop, crazy, uncontrollable! I figured the entire shoot was a waste. But months later the movie came out and there it was, this family home evening scene with the mom and dad and sister and little boy and baby. My eyes welled up with tears. It was sooooo beautiful and heart-touching!! What did I learn from that? It can all look good when it’s not?!! Hee hee! Well, maybe sometimes, but more encouraging, that there are good things going on in the midst of everyday madness and in the end you will see a clear, beautiful, rewarding picture as a parent if you just keep at it and do your best!!) In other words, if you feel your family, or parenting styles, are not ‘picture perfect’ it may be because you are working so very hard ‘behind the scenes’ for your family and you are ultimately aware of everything that is, or potentially could, be going wrong with this most important of all PRODUCTIONS!!! It doesn’t mean you are failing or not measuring up, it means you are WORKING and growing and ACHIEVING a better way for your family!!
I take comfort in this quote, again by Gordon B Hinckely:
“I feel to invite women (parents!!) everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.”
I have learned there is no perfection behind the fruits we are just starting to see in the lives of our children. Just continuing forward in faith while everyday challenges, set backs, pains, and quite frequent overwhelment, occur. In the end, it is not the picture of your family, perfect as it may look, that writes the true and lasting story of your family. It is the quiet, private moments, too hard for others to see, and most often too sensitive (for better or worse) for you to share, that determine the destiny of your family and the future of each family member.
We sometimes feel soooo deflated when things aren’t going perfect with our kids, don’t we? And that is because we love them and want the best for them, but life isn’t perfect. Parenting isn’t about being perfect — it’s about living with reality and choosing love.
“There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be full-time moms, at least during the most formative years of their children s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part- or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else.”
(Daughters of God, Ensign, May 2008, 108 10, M. Russell Ballard)
Last of all I have learned as a parent up against a lot of challenges, temptations for my children and distractions for myself, and even doubt itself, that “With God nothing is impossible.” He can give us power beyond our own and can turn a humble, bumbling parent into one that can be perfect for their individual child! When we turn to Him and do our best to follow Him, He can make our parenting efforts and shortcomings into the greatest benefit of all for our child. I take great reassurance in this principle. Although I can’t be a perfect parent, God knows my child perfectly and He can make the very best results come of the humble offering I have to give.
So as you already knew in your heart when you started reading this post, parenting isn’t about perfection. We are taught “Husbands love your wives”; wives, “reverence [your] husband,” (Ephesians 5) and children, “honor thy father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12) And maybe that is where real perfection lies, to love each other in all our imperfection everyday—faithful and true, forgiving and loyal, forgetting the wrongs of our spouse and children the way we want them to overlook our faults, treating them with love and kindness and gentleness in their imperfection—the way we long to be treated in ours.
Let’s dismiss then this silly idea of being a perfect parent and trade it in for perfectly loving, even celebrating, our imperfect families today!!
A Most Imperfect Mother