Lately I’ve been learning a lot about NOT being perfect.
That’s right, I know this might make your head explode, but your humble little writer is actually imperfect. I know that’s hard to believe, but I assure you that it’s very, very true. I’m a flawed man and father and son, and I do a lot of stupid things. I also behave in ways that just aren’t always the best from time to time. Frankly, I’m human.
One thing I noticed recently while hanging with some friends, we talked about kids and life and jobs and the typic stuff. I noted that one of the stories that one of the parents was telling me was about how she had yelled at her kids for being, well, kids, and it bothered her that she had done this and she went to her bathroom and cried for a few minutes out of sheer frustration. It’s something that virtually every parent on earth has done at one time or another and is something that you laugh about later.
Later, after they were gone, I thought about that story and tried to view the situation from the child’s point of view. The kid was being a kid and probably whining, talking back, and otherwise doing everything in his power to drive his mom batty, and then she screamed at him. Following that, Mom disappeared to her bathroom and I’m sure the house quieted down a bit afterward. And then life resumed as if nothing had happened.
I am not condemning my friend at all, but I have been thinking about this interaction for a bit, and boy, did I find it convicting for me. I’m a single dad of 3 kids and I’m here to tell you that it’s not an easy job. Everything from getting them out the door in the morning to cooking the evening meal can be sheer chaos. And in that chaos, I have yelled. LOUDLY. I have also gotten frustrated at things and snapped a mean word toward a kid. MANY times. I could go and on, but I won’t because these things aren’t fun to admit, but I have been trying to do things a bit differently lately and it’s paying dividends.
So you yell at your kids? They probably deserved it, but we all know that yelling isn’t the best nor most mature response. So I’ve been trying to get down on my kids’ level after I’ve yelled at them and look them in the eye and say “I’m very sorry for yelling at me. It’s not the way that I want to respond, and I wish I didn’t do that. I’m not perfect, you know? Will you forgive me?” That’s right – before I get after them for getting on my last nerve, I get them to FORGIVE me. Once they nod their little heads, I then can ask them “Do you think you guys could help me with XYZ chore around the house so that Dad doesn’t get so frustrated?” With that, I typically get another head nod and a “Sure Dad” and the whole situation is resolved. But it resolved with a confession, an act of forgiveness, and an agreement to do better together.
How will this manifest itself as they age? How will it play out (hopefully) in their marriages? In their jobs? Instead of teaching them that it’s perfectly normal to scream, slam doors and then disappear for a few minutes only to proceed as if nothing had happened, I’m hopefully teaching them to confront the issue with an open mind and more open heart.
This has even spilled over into other areas and has been fun to see them respond passionately. For example, I’m self employed and some months are just better than others, which impacts my pay greatly. Recently my son wanted a new xbox controller. We sat down and said “I don’t have the money for that this month.” He was disappointed and might have started in with whining, but instead we continued with a discussion about how sometimes you work really hard at something but you still fall a little short. Does that make you bad? Does that mean you’re lazy? Or does it just mean that you have to pick yourself up and try harder next time? With that little talk, he was completely over the new controller, and he related more to his Dad and had a good talk about persevence and patience.
I am by no stretch in danger of being labeled a perfect parent. And I suppose that’s the point, because none of us are. Instead of hiding our shortcomings and moments of failure, why not drag them out into the light and have an honest talk about them. Remember that in some ways, your kids think you’re perfect (especially young kids). It’s upsetting for them to see you be less than perfect, so why not begin to drive home the point that NOBODY is perfect, and that it’s ok to be imperfect.
“Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.” (Revelations 3:2)
Strengthen what remains. There is work yet to be done.
Don’t let your imperfections beat you down. Strengthen what you have, and build up what remains. Trust me, there’s still a lot of work yet to be done.