We all have dreams for ourselves and our children. When we run into difficulties with our kids, those dreams feel threatened. It is easy to panic and become anxious.
What if he can’t get into college? What if she becomes a shopaholic? What if my child is just a big failure?
These fears often cause us to work harder to keep our dreams alive. We put extra pressure on ourselves and on our children to live up to our expectations. We do all we can to avoid our imagined future nightmares. Particularly with the oldest child, we feel compelled to be perfect parents with a child who displays that perfection.
But at some point, it becomes clear that our perfect dreams are more fantasy than reality, and we finally realize that perfection is not an option. Instead of this realization driving us to despair, we can look to Jesus’ example. Jesus clearly used very ordinary, sassy, and imperfect people to accomplish great things!
In order to release myself and my child from impossible expectations, I can let go of the dreams and accept myself and my child as we really are — roses, thorns, and all! It’s easy to love roses. No special grace needed. When I love my child’s “thorns”, it’s a holy reflection of God’s unconditional love for me and all of my imperfections. Only when I rest in God’s grace can my love and dreams for my child be communicated freely, with my child’s best interests in mind.
This means that I can start to:
- accept the reality that neither my child nor I will ever entirely “get it right.” This may mean letting go of a false standard for myself, or grieving as I release hope for the “child of my dreams.”
- learn to get self-worth not from my child’s behavior but from God’s delight in me. “I can be ok, even if my child is not.”
- look with faith for what God might be accomplishing in my life through the challenges of parenting “the child of my reality.” As Julie Barnhill stated so insightfully, “God didn’t give you your child so you could fix him, or whip him into shape. God gave you your child to make YOU more like Jesus!”
- embrace core beliefs that reflect God’s sovereignty and loving purposes:
- This child is a gift, created for eternally valuable purposes.
- I am a gift to my child, uniquely matched to my child for God’s good purposes. (perhaps more difficult to believe)
Freedom, joy, and connection come alive when I embrace myself as an imperfect parent, raising imperfect children, on a journey together to discover the love of God.
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