I remember what it was like to be a perfect parent. I used to be one, you know. When we started talking about having a family, we knew we would be perfect parents.
When we brought home our first little bundle, we had some wake-up calls in the form of reflux, nap refusals, and potty training mishaps, but when it came to the heart of things, we were still pretty confident in our parenting abilities. Ok, so we needed to ask the pediatrician some questions occasionally, but for the issues that really mattered, we were on top of things.
When I look back at my short-sighted, self-righteous self during my early parenting years, I shudder. And laugh. I remember some of the conversations we had about what kind of parents we would be as our kids grew, or what our kids would never do.
Our kids would be taught from the get-go how to obey and be respectful, and talking-back or eye-rolling would never occur in our house. The TV would rarely, if ever, be turned on. Candy and junk food would not be welcome. Our children would be best friends and never argue. And sports? Well, sure, we would let our kids play sports or take classes. But only one at a time. And only one night a week.
The worst part of all this, worse than the foolish arrogance of thinking I had all the answers, was when I would observe other families’ lifestyles and judge them. Parents who were older than me. Parents whose children were older than mine. Parents who were much wiser and more godly than me. But there I was, inwardly and smugly pointing my finger at them and making snap, uninformed judgments about their parenting.
How easy it is to make judgments when you only see from the outside.
My goodness, I was clueless.
Fast forward several years. I now have six children, who have made it their united life mission to show me how far from perfect I am as a mom. The TV has days when it is on more than it is off. As for candy, these kids think it’s a daily right, and we just dropped $30 for cotton candy at the ballgame Thursday. My children are experts at finding new topics for arguments. I’ve seen them go off stomping and huffing and puffing when they don’t like what I say. And sports? Hmm… Let’s just say our calendar has way more full days than empty ones.
And I’m realizing that all those judgments I made were very easy to make because I knew nothing that went on behind the scenes of the choices I was criticizing.
Now I sit in the other seat. Since I’ve been a parent I have been judged for so many things. Judged for how many children I have. Judged for how we educate them. Judged for how many nights we’re busy. Judged for how many hours we spend in the gym or on the ballfield. And then, ironically, judged for saying we’re done having children.
The thing is, now that I’m in the trenches myself, I know the story behind what everyone sees. We do not make decisions about our family lightly. I see the raise of the eyebrow when someone disagrees with our family choices. I see that although they know nothing of the countless conversations, the agonizing over options and possible repurcussions, the fervent praying for wisdom, and oftentimes the tears that come from the heart of a mom who wants to do the best she can for her family, they are making a snap judgment of disapproval because they would have made a different choice.
I recognize the look of judgment because I’ve seen it in the mirror too often.
Parenting is not all black and white. God has given us clear directives in Scripture to follow as we raise our children, and we must follow those. But there is so much room for differences in following His directives. He made each person and each family different, to His glory.
Maybe a competitive gymnast’s schedule wouldn’t work for your family any more than a public school schedule would work for mine. That’s ok. We can be different. Maybe you think I’m crazy for having six kids in the first place, much less signing them up for sports. That’s ok. We can be different.
Let’s remember grace. Let’s give each other room to be different, to make different decisions. Let’s encourage. Let’s pray for each other. And let’s stop making criticisms and judgments when other moms do things differently than we do.
God gives mothers so much grace.
Let’s follow His lead.;