I have had some of the best days of my life as a parent. I have been able to share in the joy of three births; watched all of my kids take their first steps; and helped them learn to tie shoes, ride bikes, and read books. We have shared in the love of music and movies, and have had so many laughs together that it is impossible for me to count them all. I have been able to share this journey with a wife who is my partner in all things and who shares these responsibilities with me in a way that empowers me as a Dad but also provides me with support as a man and as a husband. I am a part of a faith community that builds upon our roots and challenges us to grow together in our faith and serve others as well as our community. Add to this unlimited smiles, hugs, and kisses, and you get the picture. As I’ve said before, I am ridiculously blessed.
I have also had some really rough days as a parent. I have lost my cool, yelled at my kids, got really angry with my wife, and taken out my frustrations from work on my entire family. I have failed to live up to the expectations of my family at times. I really hate to even admit this, but it’s the truth.
Which of these outweighs the other? In the end, what defines me as a parent? When I win or when I lose? How do I decide if I am doing a good job as a parent or if I am going in the wrong direction? These are the questions that swirl around in my mind at times and cause me to put an unnecessary burden on myself and cast judgement on my performance as a parent; it makes me feel like I am just not cutting it sometimes and it can be overwhelming. I am still convinced, though, that we can make these hard days, these “worst” days, still some of the best days of our lives.
In today’s day and age, we are constantly bombarded with messages of what “good parenting” looks like. We also are comparing ourselves to each other on social media and trying to live up to that picture perfect idea that all of us show to the world. It’s not reality. Parenting is tough, there is no denying this. It’s full of missteps, losses, mistakes, and hurts. No one gives you a playbook and no one really knows what is going on in your world unless you take the time to let them in, and even then, can they truly know what you are experiencing?
The truth is that parenting, while hard and risky, is the best gift that can be given. The ability to lead your child and teach them how to work their way through this life is exhilarating. It’s a huge responsibility and the path is hard, but the fact that we get to take the lessons that we were given, share the good ones, discard the bad ones, and walk that child down a new and unpaved road is the highlight of life.
Processing our individual judgements of ourselves is something that we all have to deal with and find a way to be open about with our peers. We have to embrace and understand that we will all fail and we will all succeed. Like so many other things in life, however, this whole parenting thing is not a destination but a wonderful and crazy journey. The failures can create new opportunities for us to grow in love for each other, as well as to serve as reminders of the things that haven’t gone well, so we can make better choices moving forward. We also have a chance to show our kids that even though we mess up, we can pick ourselves back up, start a new path, and have success when we thought all we had was a failure. Those can be even more powerful lessons for our little people to learn than something we read them from a book. Without question, the light outshines the dark and the worst days can still sometimes be our best days. Despite the doubt and second-guessing, I have been able to share in so many wonderful experiences with my family, and when I stop and look back at those memories, I can’t help but smile wide and laugh.
Push yourself to remember this next time you wander off into the fog of doubt about what you are doing as a parent and you feel like you are struggling. Maybe instead of casting judgement on yourself, remember the wonderful experiences that you have been able to share with your family and hold those precious memories close to you. I am here to give you these words of encouragement and to remind you that you ARE a great and glorious example for your kids and your family. Stick to it, and remember that the journey is worth the effort. Also, the laughs, smiles, and hugs are really nice–never forget them. Go out there, make the worst days the best days and keep rocking it as parents!