You Don’t Have to Be Perfect


My younger daughter is playing on a girls’ hockey team in Minnesota this summer. No, we don’t live in Minnesota. As a matter of fact, we live about 7 hours from Minnesota.

We had some really good reasons for letting her play in Minnesota this summer. It was only seven weekends. My parents were willing to go for a weekend so we wouldn’t have to. We wanted her to have the opportunity to play with girls. It wasn’t that expensive. We could go most weekends as a family.

It hasn’t turned out the way we planned. The schedule has changed four times. Our older daughter has had a conflict with nearly every weekend. What was supposed to be a couple of fun family trips to Minnesota this summer has turned out to be more weekends of splitting our family up. Because of the schedule changes, my parents haven’t been able to take her for a weekend. We’ve discovered traveling to Minnesota for a couple of days is exhausting for both her and us.

What was supposed to be a couple of fun weekends in Minnesota has turned into a lot bigger strain on our family than we anticipated. If we had the decision to make again, we would probably choose differently.

As I sit here on Monday facing another trip to Minnesota without the other half of my family on Thursday, I realize that our decision to let our daughter play hockey in Minnesota is not that different from any other parenting decision. We all face choices where we think we’re making the right choice and doing the right thing for our kids. We’ve prayed about it. We’ve talked it over. We’ve weighed the pros and cons. Then it doesn’t turn out like we thought it would.

When that happens, we have choices. We can choose to wallow in the defeat of making a wrong decision or we can choose to learn from our decision and do a better job the next time.

As parents, it’s so easy to get caught up in the guilt of a decision gone bad. We feel like we’ve failed our kids. We look back and think of all the things we could have done differently. We desperately wish we could fix what’s gone wrong.

But the truth is, we’re not perfect parents. Sometimes we miss the mark. Sometimes we choose poorly. Sometimes we can have all the information and make the best decision possible with the information we have — and the information changes after we choose.

And you know what? Those decisions, those failures, are actually good for us and good for our kids. It’s important that we remember that we aren’t perfect. It’s important for us to remember that no matter how great our failings as parents, God’s got our kids in the palm of His hands. It’s important for our kids to see us fail — and recover from failure — because they are learning how to deal with failure from us.

Those decisions that we make that don’t work out the way we planned aren’t proof that we’re bad parents. They’re proof that we’re human. They’re proof that we need to rely on God. They’re proof that even in the midst of plans gone awry that we can count on God to fulfill His promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”

Because even when we make decisions that don’t turn out the best, God can use those situations for good. He can use them to further His kingdom. He can use them to change us and our kids.

Even though our Minnesota weekends haven’t turned out like we thought they would, we are getting some great one-on-one time with my younger daughter. She is getting to meet and play with girls. My older daughter is getting the benefit of some one-on-one time at home. And my husband and I are learning to appreciate being together when we are home together.

None of us are perfect. We’re all going to make decisions we wish we hadn’t made, but God can take those tough situations and botched decisions and make something beautiful.

We don’t have to be perfect parents. We don’t have to get it right 100 percent of the time. We just have to trust that God is bigger than our messes and that He can work everything together for good.

Signs of Progress


Yesterday, I spent some time with my younger daughter. We went shopping for some school supplies and ran some other errands. We had a rousing discussion about the most underrated player in the National Hockey League (these are the intimate discussions you have with a 10-year-old who is obsessed with hockey) and some interesting conversation about the upcoming school year.

I really enjoyed our time together. I tell you this because not every outing with my girls turns out this way. I often come home frustrated and annoyed from a shopping trip with my girls. My younger daughter is not a fast decision-maker, which can make for a long day of shopping. She’s also not always the best at controlling her tongue and her attitude.

We’ve been working hard on those last two things for about the past six months. And in the past three weeks, we’ve seen a lot of successes. And I’m thankful because six months ago, I never thought I’d see the day when I enjoyed spending time with this child. Six months ago, I was regularly hitting my knees in tears over the direction this child was headed. That’s why one day of enjoyable shopping was a big deal.

Yesterday’s shopping trip was one of those parenting moments where I got to see a lot of hard work and prayer pay off. We still have a ways to go as we continue to mold the character of both of our girls, but the progress from where we were six months ago is measurable. It is recognizable.

So, today, I want to encourage you if you’re struggling with your child’s behavior and character. If you wince when your child opens his mouth or you watch your child interact with other kids and wonder why she just can’t get along, remember that your kids can change. They can modify their behavior and their attitude. They just need your help and God’s help.

If you’re deep in the trenches of a tough parenting season, remember that you’re not alone. You may not be seeing any signs of progress. The light at the end of the tunnel may be so far away that you can’t see it at all. But in those moments, know that God is there with you and there are other parents who are struggling right alongside you.

Our struggles are not a surprise to God. He uses those struggles to mold not just us but our kids. For whatever reason, some kids simply can’t learn important life lessons without traveling down the rocky road, despite the smooth, level path next to them. But those rocky road experiences, those days that send you to your knees crying out in despair, are the ones that will change you. They are the moments that will change your child’s heart.

When you’re caught in a tough parenting moment, hit your knees. Pray constantly over your child. And look for moments of progress — even if they’re small. Take a minute to thank God for those moments, whether it’s an enjoyable shopping trip, a child saying please without being reminded, or a successful day of school. Always remember that small steps in the right direction are still steps.

Memory Monday: Saying No (for now) to the Hunger Games (Proverbs 4:2)

I made my 10-year-old really mad last week. She’s been asking to read The Hunger Games. Nearly everyone in her grade has read it, and she feels like she’s missing out.

Until last week, I had not read The Hunger Games. From what I had heard about the books, I didn’t think they were appropriate for a 10-year-old, especially not one who is prone to nightmares. But instead of giving my daughter a flat-out “no” based on what I had read, I told her I had to read them first.

I’ll be honest. I had no desire to read these books. Everything I had heard about them made them sound gruesome and without redeeming value. However, after I read them, I found that they were actually pretty good literature. They’re thought-provoking and raise some great conversation points. But I still felt that they were not appropriate for my 10-year-old.

My concerns were three-fold. First, I felt there were certain scenes in the books that would give my daughter nightmares. We deal with nightmares on a fairly regular basis, so I’m not willing to do anything that’s going to deprive us of even more sleep around here. Second, while I think the books raise some great questions about the role of government, the things people will do in extreme situations and what a world without God looks like, I don’t think my 10-year-old is old enough to grasp those concepts. Last, one of the main story lines is a love triangle, which while very clean, I don’t think my daughter would grasp all the nuances of and would raise more questions than she’s ready to handle.

So, I made my daughter mad and told her she couldn’t read the books right now. I told her other parents might make different decisions, but my decision for her was no, for now. I told her we would revisit the subject when she was older and I felt she would better understand the books, but for now, the answer is no. She thought I was being unfair. She thought I was the meanest mom in the world. And that’s OK because I’m not always supposed to be her best friend. I am supposed to be her filter.

We have a screened-in back porch on our house. I love to leave the back door to my house open to let in the breeze. Yet, we also like to leave the door to the back porch open so the dog can go in and out freely. Leaving that porch door open, though, defeats the purpose of a screened in back porch, so a couple weeks ago, I bought one of those mesh screens that just hangs on the doorframe. It has magnets down the middle so people and animals can go in and out without letting in the bugs. It’s not the perfect solution. Some bugs still get in, but it’s a definite improvement over the open back door.

As parents, we’re a lot like that hanging screen. It’s our job to filter out the things that our kids aren’t ready for. We want to be like the author of Proverbs, who says to his son, “I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching” (Proverbs 4:2). My kids don’t spend every waking hour with me. Just like the screen can’t keep all of the bugs out, I can’t keep every objectionable thing out of my kids’ lives. But I can filter most of it.

Sometimes being the filter means we have to be unpopular with our kids. But it’s important for our kids to know that we’re not filtering things out because we’re being legalistic or following a rigid set of rules. Our kids need to know that we act as a filter on the things they read, see or wear because we love them. If our filtering actions are motivated by love and our kids know that, then when we say “no” to certain things, our kids know that we aren’t doing it just to be mean or to make them a social pariah. It’s much easier to accept a decision motivated by love than one motivated by adherence to an unknown set of rules.

As I explained my decision about The Hunger Games to my daughter, I gently explained that I was telling her “no” because I love her. As the tears rolled down her cheeks, I explained all of my reasons. She went to bed upset with me, but the next day she came home from school and gave me a short list of the other kids in the grade who weren’t allowed to read the books. “Those are the responsible parents,” she said. I had to smile. She had taken our conversation and put it into the context of love.

Acting as a filter is hard. Sometimes it’s way easier to say yes than it is to deal with the fallout from saying no. But acting as a screen for what our kids see, read and wear is a job we shouldn’t take lightly. Protecting our kids hearts and minds and helping them to see the reasons for our decisions lets them know that we make our decisions with their best interests at heart.

Where do you need to act as a filter for your child today?

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two  and The Better Mom.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

I took my girls shopping for spring clothes yesterday. It took us five hours, and we got everything on our list except for pajamas for my oldest. Taking my girls shopping together is an experience. They have polar opposite opinions about what they want to wear. For my youngest, the more sparkles and bling, the better. My oldest won’t wear a shirt or pants that has any kind of embellishment on it at all. It makes it difficult to shop with them together.

My oldest is almost 11 (wow, did I just write 11?) When it comes to shopping for clothes, she’s tough to find things for. She’s not interested in frills or form-fitting clothes (I think she would prefer to simply have her clothes hang from her shoulders and not touch the rest of her body.) She doesn’t like pink or purple, and she doesn’t wear jewelry. The most important thing to her about her clothes is comfort. The older and bigger she gets, the harder she is to shop for.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about her wanting to wear some of the less modest fashions. She only wants to wear shorts that hit the tops of her knees, and the looser her shirts are, the better. Up until this spring, I’ve had a no track pants to school rule. Track pants are my daughter’s favorite item of clothing. She loves how they feel and how little they restrict her movement. But my issue has always been that you need to dress for success. Track pants are for the soccer field. Nicer clothes are for school.

But this spring, as I scoured the stores for clothes my daughter would wear, I realized that I was not choosing my battles wisely. As I stared in dismay at some of the fashions designers think young girls should wear, I came to the conclusion that track pants weren’t the end of the world. I realized that I was making an issue out of something that simply isn’t worth it.

So, yesterday, I took my daughter to the Nike outlet and bought her two outfits that include some cute, capri track pants. I even persuaded her to buy a pair with a hot pink stripe down the side. Her new outfits are feminine and modest. They don’t detract from her ability to do her schoolwork, and they didn’t break my pocketbook. We also bought a few outfits that better fit my idea of “appropriate” school attire. She’s happy, and I’m happy. We didn’t stand in the store and argue over what we were going to buy, and she didn’t end up with a drawer full of clothes she won’t wear.

As parents, we have to choose the battles we want to fight. I learned this lesson a long time ago with my youngest, but for some reason I still chose to fight this particular battle over clothes with my oldest. It wasn’t until I felt the Holy Spirit prick my heart with the question, “How is your daughter’s choice in clothing not honoring God?” that I started to reconsider. I had to answer that there is really nothing in her clothing decisions that doesn’t honor God. It’s my sensibilities that she’s hurting.

When we find ourselves in a battle of wills with our kids, we need to stop and decide if what we’re fighting about is really important to God — or if it’s just important to us. If what our kids are doing isn’t dishonoring to God, then we need to decide whether it’s really a battle we want to fight. Some battles are. I will continue to make my kids take their muddy shoes off at the door. There’s nothing in the Bible about it, but I don’t want to spend my days cleaning mud off the carpet. But some battles aren’t. When we fight those battles with our kids, we set ourselves up for resentment. We make mountains out of molehills, and we exasperate our kids, which is something God commands us not to do (Ephesians 6:4). Those are the battles we need to let go of.

Choosing our battles is hard. On days when we’re tired and frustrated, we just want our kids to do things our way. It’s easier, and we know better. But whether your child is a toddler or a teenager, there are probably some battles you’re fighting that simply aren’t worth it. Let go of those battles today. You’ll find your load is lighter and your kids are happier.

And when you see my daughter at school in her new track pants and matching T-shirts, let her know how nice she looks. I’ll be telling her before she walks out the door.

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows.