Perfect Parenting Isn’t the Goal

By: - November 20, 2014

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Grocery Store

This year during Tapestry Conference I was fortunate enough to attend the Friday workshop with Dr. Tina Bryson, and it was exactly what I needed. In the middle of a busy season for our family (work, school, wolf pack soccer … you know the drill), I confess to you that I was a little off my parenting game. I was slipping when it came to connecting and engaging with my kids despite all the insights and strategies I’ve learned through Tapestry over the years.

In light of all that, Dr. Bryson’s sessions couldn’t have been more timely. I walked out of the workshop refreshed and renewed in my commitment to being the kind of father my kids need me to be. It was great. And then, just an hour later, I took my kids to the grocery store, and they couldn’t have cared less about what I learned (or thought I learned) that day. Within minutes, they went nuts. And I, despite a fantastic parenting workshop, responded by going nuts.

Then, just when it couldn’t get any better, I ran into another adoptive parent in the grocery store. Luckily for me (though not for her), her kids were going nuts too.

“How’s it going?” I said.

“Well,” she said, glancing down at her children, “I’m trying to use the strategies we learned from Tapestry a few months ago.”

In the moment, I felt like I could top that. “Yeah, well, I’m trying to use the strategies I learned today. And it’s not going very well!”

We wished each other well and went back to our lists. And of course, we all survived that particular trip to the store. Now, a few weeks later, I’m still thinking about that day and trying to learn from it.

As it turns out, good intentions and great advice aren’t enough to turn me (or you) into the perfect parent. Heck, good intentions and great advice aren’t enough to get me through the produce section. There’s no speaker you can hear, book you can read, or commitment you can make that will guarantee you a pain-free future as a parent.

But those things can equip us. They can educate us and help us see our blind spots. They can teach us to understand our kids in new and deeper ways. From there, we have to show up — and not just once, with great gusto and fanfare, but over and over again. Day by day by day.

Whether today is a raging success or an epic failure, I have to show up again tomorrow. Even in the course of a single day there will be wins, losses, and draws — that’s just the way it goes — and we don’t get to gloat, quit, or coast. We have to keep showing up, and that’s what I’m trying to do these days. I’ll never be a perfect parent, and that’s not really even something I’m striving for. Instead of perfection, I’d rather aim for perfect attendance. I want to show up every day.

(All that said, I’m still thinking about ordering my groceries online from now on.)

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