As parents we try to do the best we can to raise perfect kids. We want them to be the best at everything. Even if we won’t admit it out loud. We want our sons to be the best ball player on the team. Moms dream of one day looking into that camera shot on TV, and seeing her son mouth, “Hey Mom!” We want our daughters to be beauty queens and learn the Miss America wave. We want them to be honor roll students and future Rhodes Scholars. We drag them to music lessons and endure years of endless recitals to hear our kid on stage for a couple of minutes hoping against hope that they don’t screw up their piece during their moment to shine. We want everyone to be impressed with our kids, and wonder how in the world we did it.
Well, here’s a hard truth, perfect kids are not only overrated, they are non-existent. Why? Because we raised them. Imperfect parents cannot raise a perfect kid. As hard as some of us try to be perfect parents so that we can raise perfect kids, we fail. And we spend a lot of time beating ourselves down over it.
There was a time when I wanted to raise perfect kids. I tried hard. I wanted to give them every opportunity to try everything that came along, so that when that perfect opportunity came by, they would be ready for it. It was all going to be… perfect.
I’m not sure when I decided it was all crazy. I can’t say that it happened overnight. But there are some people I credit with our transition. When my kids were smaller, I knew a family whose kids were grown and seemed… perfect. All three kids. Somehow, these parents had done it. I quickly wanted to become a student of their tutelage. What I soon learned surprised me. In talking to both the parents and the kids, I found out a few things. They were not perfect. Perfection had not ever even been the goal.
Their goal had rather been to be different. While good grades, music lessons, and sports had been part of their rearing, they were never the main focus. They told me that while their children were growing up, they were fortunate to live close to the beach and that every Saturday was “Forced Family Fun” day at the beach. They didn’t invite friends, they just spent time being a family. Both the parents and the kids told me these were sometimes frustrating days, but in the end, every Saturday they spent together as a family grew bonds that will not be broken.
I learned that these parents had an open door policy. No subject was off limits for their children to talk about. It was up to the kids to be truthful, and the parents to walk them through it, however bad it was. They had long conversations, some of them difficult, but never was the love of the parents for their children in doubt.
Perfection was replaced with purpose. All they did as a family, and as individuals, they did with purpose in mind. They followed the principal taught in Colossians 3:17
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…”
Good grades were strived for not to please parents, teachers, or reward, but to present nothing less than their best to the Lord. Extra curricular activities were opportunities to reach out to people and be an example of the love of Christ. Any success in these areas was also intended as a way to present their best effort to the Lord. Family was a safe place to be imperfect, but purposeful.
After getting to know this family, our own family’s strategy changed. Over time, our focus was less on perfection and more on purpose. We wanted our children to find their God-designed purpose in life. So much of popular child rearing ideas focus on temporal things. We wanted to focus more on the things that will affect them for eternity and how they themselves can effect eternity for someone else.
Often times today, my husband will ask the question of an activity our kids are involved in, “Where are we going with this?” What he means in the question is,
Is there a purpose in this? What is the end goal in mind?
As I said, the shift didn’t take place overnight. I would love to go back and trade in some of those early parenting years, but like I said, we were imperfect then. Still are, but differently so. I no longer care to have perfect kids. I want purposeful kids. I want kids who live their lives out fulfilling the unique purpose they have in the Kingdom, whatever that is.
Oh, I want them to do it with excellence, sure, but not perfection.