Originally published Tuesday, 21 August 2012.
Do you ever wonder if you are doing this whole "parenting thing" correctly? Does it seem that other parents have it all figured out and you are simply stumbling through? Do you fear that you will make a colossal, uncorrectable, mistake? Let me let you in on a rarely-discussed little parenting secret - we all feel that way sometimes!
I regularly travel the country teaching and writing on the topic of parenting, and yet, many days, I wonder if I am even doing it right! For each milestone that my children have faced, whether it was learning to walk, their first day of school, or driving alone, I was certain that I was completely ill-prepared, and that someone could definitely be doing it better than me. Even so, I have found that the anticipation that we are not prepared is always far worse than the actual event. Pregnant mothers worry that they will not know how to care for their infants appropriately. Moms of preschoolers worry that they will never be able to handle Johnny's first day of school (and all the homework that is certain to follow). And moms of pre-teens are convinced they won't make it through the dreaded teen years - alive!
For all the unnecessary worrying I have done about my parenting skills (or lack thereof), I have learned an important lesson that I want to share with you. God gave you those precious angels, because you, through his strength, are well-equipped to handle each obstacle that will arise. You are the perfect person to navigate the sometimes murky waters of parenting for your child. You have been divinely appointed to impart wisdom into her life, teach her, and watch her grow into the lovely young woman she will one day become.
My fear was always that I would not be good enough, or even worse, that my children would not be good enough! What if I said or did the wrong thing in front of other parents? What if my children didn't make Honor Roll or Heaven-forbid, made C's and D's? Oh goodness! What if they made bad grades, failed, could not get into college, and I was forever financially supporting them?! Do you see where this is going?
My concern that my children would not do things correctly or that they would possibly fail at a task made me a completely unbearable parent. I was the ultimate "hover mom". You know the type - the ones that overdress their children in winter for fear their child will catch a cold, the ones that know every homework assignment before their kid even makes it home from school. I had become so fearful of failure for my kids that I even "helped" them with their class projects, when they weren't even in the same room!
As parents, our fear of failure can sometimes hinder our children from actually learning and growing. My freedom in this area came when I was talking with another mom who said to me, "I guess I will eventually have to go to college with Bobby, because he never seems to know what is going on. I don't know what he would do without me!" As I stood and listened to her, a light bulb went off in my own head. This is ridiculous. My parents never hovered over me to complete school tasks, clean my room, or much else, for that matter. I simply knew that I needed to get it done or there would be a consequence.
Freedom in parenting comes when we realize that most of our What-ifs are unfounded fears that immobilize us from doing an effective parenting job. It is okay if your child does not always earn the top grade in the class. His failed test does not mean that he will never get into college. In fact, even if he happens to fail an entire grade level, chances are, it will teach him a far more valuable lesson than having a mom do all his work for him would have ever taught him.
Our job as parents is not to fear that our children may one day fail, but rather to give them the freedom to do so, knowing that we will be right there to teach them from the experience.
Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and speaker who has a passion to see women and single parents living the life God intended. She has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs, written articles for countless Christian magazines, and founded, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a global nonprofit. For more information, visit http://www.jennifermaggio.com.