The Character Movement

I am a Mediocre Parent… And so are you… And that’s ok.

Guest blog written by Sally Koering, Youth Frontiers Experiences Manager

At Thanksgiving this past year, my large family – including seven cousins to my three kiddos – got together to celebrate. I had the brilliant idea to have the kids write down what they were thankful for, and then we’d share them at dinner. (I’m so deep and thoughtful!) So, off the kids went and came back a few minutes later with their evidence of gratitude for all that is good and right in their lives.

I could not wait to see what my three brilliant little buggers would say – after all, these are the moments where we show the world that we are good parents, right? When our kids say thoughtful things in front of others as evidence of our awesomeness as parents? When we parade our kids around as a reflection of ourselves?

So around the table we went: my nephew, Ryan, was thankful for “family.” Right on, Ryan’s parents! My niece, Amelia, totally got what we were going for and wrote something along the lines of, “I am thankful for this moment right now and for all of us being together.” Well done, Amelia’s parents! And then we got to my bright, sweet daughter, Maren. “What are you thankful for, Maren?” Without saying a word, she turned her paper over and it read: “Tacos.”

Tacos. Tacos? Tacos!

We laughed. (Well, she does love tacos.) A far cry from being thankful for this moment right now – Maren is grateful for tacos.

To be honest with you, I was embarrassed. I was afraid Maren’s gratitude was somehow a reflection of something I was doing wrong. That it somehow marred the perfect picture that I had in my mind about what gratitude “should” be; what that moment could be. That was my own doing, and truly unfair to Maren.

When I think about that moment, I am reminded, once again, that parenting is a humbling profession. In between those rare moments of certainty and joy, we’re mostly left with uncertainty, challenge and fumbles. I fail at it more than I succeed.

But the thing is, it wouldn’t look that way if you checked my – or anyone else’s – Facebook page. We don’t post the failures; we don’t often share the real struggles that might reveal our insecurities. The Christmas cards and family portraits are only milliseconds of reality, but they play a powerful role in our expectations of how things should be.

I think we might be better off as parents – and for the sake of our kids – to instead focus on how mediocre we all are. It might take the pressure off all those “shoulds.”

What we really need to share is the picture you took right before the one that became your holiday card. We can share the piece of advice that didn’t work instead of all the advice that did. We need to share the “taco” moments, because they are real and make us laugh and feel less alone. And, if I take a moment to look for it, those moments are beautiful in and of themselves because they remind us that kids are hilarious, struggling, unique and on their own journey – just like us.

After all, Maren’s gratitude that day was sweet. It was honest. And that is a beautiful thing. (Even if it took my mediocre parenting to realize it.)

Sally is married with three young children and lives in the Twin Cities area. Sally has been at Youth Frontiers for the past 13 years. Along with her work at YF, she also has her own consulting business doing creative consulting and presentation coaching.

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