Once more I am sitting on the floor, facing the aching reality of my desire for perfection in this world. Once more I am undone by this world of parenting, by the large gap between theory and practice. Once more I am caught off guard by my inability to get inside my son’s mind and understand what is affecting his behaviour, what he’s been through in the days, how to help him be kind and gentle. Once more I am torn to pieces by bringing people into this world who might not make it better, who won’t live up to my perfectionist heart. Once more I am faced with the call to love, to love, to love. Once more I turn to the only place I know to find this source of love in the face of the unlovely.
It’s been a frustrating week or so with the eldest. Every now and again we connect but more often we clash and my head runs to fear of the future before it runs to hope for what might be. Too many times I’ve felt myself relating out of anxiety rather than patiently exploring what is going on in my son’s world, or indeed patiently waiting until he is ready to open up. I’m back in a familiar place in a vastly different context. Raising small people to live well in this world is pushing all my perfectionist buttons. I want to get it right, I want to be the parent who manages to relate well, connect deeply, be patient and kind, be caring, respect their rights, hold fairly to healthy boundaries and who manages to help their child be echoes of that in this world. Of course I’m not these things all the time. I am frustrated, exhausted, impatient, fearful and anxious. I am undone when they hurt each other, I take it personally, surely if I am doing my job as a parent well they shouldn’t hurt each other. Surely?
I wonder what we are aiming for in this weird world of parenting. I wonder where the room for failure is, on my part and theirs. I wonder how we can walk a path of grace in this world. I wonder if their behaviour is less a reflection of my parenting and more a reflection of being a human in this messed up broken world. I wonder if actually knowing their Maker more might not make them into better human beings but will help them know how to say sorry and know what it means to be forgiven. I wonder if I need to know that forgiveness more in my own heart and my need for forgiveness. I wonder if I need to kill the perfectionist in me. I wonder if I should read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly again.
I ache inside with fear at my son hurting others. The sad reality is that he does and will. I do too. We are not perfect, we cannot convince ourselves of this anymore. We are broken. But we are loved, we are everlastingly loved and as I remember that I am halted in my tracks. When my son hits me I have a choice to gently remind him that we don’t hit, that I love him, that I forgive him. I have no idea at the moment how to access the vast pool of emotions inside him that are working their way out at the end of each day. I can guess at them and allI I can do is be there to connect, to forgive, to patiently keep on loving, to not fear the future.
I can only do this because I have a parent who is doing this with me. When I stare at my son in confusion at his behaviour, when I choose to connect rather than run in fear, I sense again the divine presence, the God who parents me, who never gives up on me, who holds me in my fear, pain and confusion at this messy world.
I take the world on my shoulders, I blame myself for their behaviour and I forget that these small people who were born out of me, flesh of my flesh are learning their way to being independent creatures in this world. I am responsible for loving them well. I am not responsible for the choices they make (is that true?). I do my best to provide an environment of love, nurture and care, and still it will not be a perfect environment. I can ask for forgiveness and I can say sorry. There is so much I can’t do and am not responsible for. I can cry out to the one who can bring change to our fragile hearts, who can grow love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control and gentleness in us and I can rest my sons in his mighty hands.
Anyone else struggle with this stuff? Anyone else got some wisdom?