Back when I had Kiddo1, my mother told me not to try being a perfect mother, but instead to be a good-enough mother. Since there are no perfect mothers, you’d pretty much kill yourself trying to live up to the standard. The advice sounds good, and I think the theory is sound, but of course we never know what’s good-enough. You can always find a way you fell short.
At church, the homily was about God as a perfect parent, and the priest (who, I might add, has no biological children) said something about how we can see glimmers of God’s perfect parenting in the parenting we see around us. My reaction to that is always to compare myself to “a perfect parent” and of course we get the big “SURVEY SAYS….X.”
Today, though, it struck me: when I picture a “perfect parent,” I also picture a perfect child. These perfect parents in my head are painting at the kitchen table, or doing crafts, or going for long walks in the park, and the child is pliant, clean, cheerful, well-rested. I don’t picture the perfect parent dealing with a child who’s screaming “I HATE YOU ALL!” because he can’t find his left sneaker, or a child who’s still on the couch twenty minutes after saying she’ll set the table. I’m certainly not picturing the perfect parent dealing with a child who’s destroying someone’s property during a meltdown or being physically violent.
If God is a perfect parent, and none of us are perfect…well, the conclusion here is that I’m missing the point. That the state of the child is not a verdict on the state of the parenting. Because if God is the parent to us all, and people are people (think of the person who infuriates you the most, or the person whose behavior leaves you shaking your head) then there’s something more to perfect parenting than rearing perfect children with their loving smiles and their clean clothes and their crafts at the kitchen table. In other words, perfection is in the loving response to the child rather than the child as a product.
I haven’t processed this yet. Feel free to tell me where I’ve missed the boat.