Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Parents Make Mistakes

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I never knew a hiss could be earsplitting till that moment. Till the moment she exploded, I assumed she was listening with only 1 ear. 

I had prattled on while she busied herself with one of her never-ending, must-be-done-right-now chores. 

“What do you MEAN I made MISTAKES? Parents don't MAKE mistakes!” Even now almost 25 years later, I can hear her wrath and feel the heat of her gaze.

If I tell you the truth, it will be embarrassing. The scene exploding around me was born earlier in the day. I was with a group of young wives and a couple of ones that had been married a while. The one doing most of the talking drove me NUTS. As in: I'd rather have listened to chalk squeal the length of a 2-block long chalk board than tolerate her voice for 10 seconds. 

July 2009
They said she was Phi Beta Kappa smart. She seemed as ditzy as I have acted all day long today. When her mouth moved, my secret set of inner eyeballs rolled around in disgust. I know. It wasn't Christian of me at all. I embarrass myself admitting it all these years later.

In the midst of the discussion that day, she said something that jerked me bolt upright on the chair in which I'd been slouching while praying for a nap to deliver me. 

“As a parent, you will make mistakes. Forgive yourself. God is Sovereign. He is Sovereign over everything...even the mistakes you make as a parent. So, season your parenthood with prayer. Ask forgiveness of God and of your children when you blow it. Then, forgive yourself and let God, in his Sovereignty, redeem your mistakes."

I sat there trying not to look slack-jawed in amazement and wondered where she had been hiding all that wisdom. Even today, I shake my head in wonder.

After the get together, I went to visit my mom. In my state of newly-wedded naivete, it never occurred to me that she would take exception to the wisdom I was sharing. I started out telling her how amazed I was that this formerly uninspiring individual got my attention and held it. 

Courtesy B. Creasy
I told Mom what a relief the concept had been to me: “Parents make mistakes. All parents. I am so relieved to think of it from this new perspective.” That's when she blew like a newly dug oil well!

My perfectly mannered Southern Belle of a mamma went all postal on me. I might be slow to learn sometimes, but I caught on real quick-like that day. I called her attention to a speck of dust she missed and narrowly avoided annihilation by getting her to again focus on her 1st love: cleaning. 

That speck of dust probably saved my life so that I could practice failing as a parent. I think she finally forgave me when she met my sons. Actually, they distracted her enough that she didn't mind me so much anymore! Maybe.

With all due respect to my mother and to the Phi Beta Kappa ditz of long ago, that nugget of truth has remained with me all the 22 years of my parenting life. On the days when I have single-handedly broken my own heart with one parenting mistake after another, I have heard those words, “Season your parenting with prayer, forgive yourself, and let God, in his Sovereignty, redeem your mistakes."

Boy, have I needed that gem this week. In fact, I've even day dreamed about apologizing to that Phi Beta Kappa beauty queen. You see, I have failed at parenting every single day this week. No one is bleeding, and we are all still speaking. But, it has not been pretty. At all. 

August 2010
Parenting is hard under the best of circumstances. Parenting a kid on the Asperger's Spectrum is enough to break you about 3 times a day if not 3 times an hour.

Despite our best efforts to communicate, I totally mis-read Son #2 this week. The walls vibrated from the intensity of our loud, hot, angry, desperate voices. By the time understanding dawned, our cheeks were soaked in the tears of failure and mutual disgust. When we were both spent, I was so tired I could barely blink.

We wept. I prayed and asked God to forgive us for our anger and for my failure. I asked him to redeem the mess I'd made of things. I looked in Son #2's eyes and said, “I'm sorry. I understand. I can address the situation that perplexes you.” I did my best to do so.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Later that day, he came to me, bent over almost double, and wrapped his arms around me. How did he get to be so tall? 

“Mom, I'm sorry. I don't know how things got so messed up. What can I do to help make things better?” 

I'd love to tell you that we all lived happily ever after. We haven't. First weeks back into the routine of school after a holiday are enough to break us both. I tremble at the unmitigated mess I can make of things. I take a deep breath, sigh, and summon back the scene from long ago. 

I am slumping ever lower in my chair wishing I could listen to squeaky chalk. My self-absorption arrests when the Phi Betta Kappa speaks: “God is Sovereign over your mistakes.”

Oh, Dear Lord, if ever that is true, let this be the week. Let this be the day. Consecrate my parenting before your eyes. Redeem my failures, and make my sons who you want them to be in spite of me. In spite of me.

Courtesy B. Creasy  -  2010
Love you long and strong, fraidy cat. God is Sovereign. Even over your mistakes. I hope you will carry those words with you as long as I have and that they will encourage you to keep moving forward even when you feel as tho' failure is all you know. See you soon? 

Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

Psalm 37:24 (NLT)
Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.



  1. Oh how I have begged God for the very same things over my failures as a parent. Isn't it blatantly obvious that parents make mistakes. I hate pride. I hate it that it can blind us to truth. Good stuff CA. I appreciate your words. Now I need to bathe my failures in prayer. :(

  2. Thank GOD for that! And for you. I needed that today. *hugs*

  3. I don't know who feels worse this week, Son #2 or me. So much for my New Year's resolution of using the fruits of the Spirit to grade my daily report card. BUSTED. So, busted. UGH. Thank you both for letting me know I'm not the only fraidy cat parent doing the best they can in this fraidy cat world.

  4. The one thing your kids will not forgive is hypocrisy. We MUST confess our sin, admit our error and move on. They will rise up and call us blessed.

  5. Thank you for the encouragement. Parenting is the toughest job you will ever love. And the scariest!

  6. I remember one instance with my son last summer (he's 23yo) when I was so angry that I slammed down the empty dinner plate I was holding on the kitchen counter and it broke and flew into a hundred pieces. Neither one of us said anything. I couldn't make eye contract with him. With the slam all my anger left and I was left with embarrassment. Then he calmly looks at me and with a totally straight face said, "Was that really necessary?" I said, "No, but I feel better." He helped me clean it up, gave me a hug and kiss and said, "As long as you feel better!" LOL He makes me insane sometimes, but he keeps me sane, too! {{{Hugs}}}

  7. It's good to know that I'm not the only one out there who is constantly failing. Thank you for sharing this, I really needed to read it. {hugs}

  8. I have to re-read it alot myself, Susan. I think I would have died of 'faint of heart-itis' long ago had I not clung to those words all these years.