It has been an emotional week at my house. My 20-year-old daughter returned home from a church mission in Brazil and delivered our congregation's Easter sermon on Sunday morning. She did -- amazing. Also, my twins turned 18. Yes, I have officially raised four humans to adulthood and survived to tell the tale. And tomorrow morning I'm getting on an airplane to see my oldest daughter graduate from college -- plus -- bring my recently returned missionary back to college.
Here's what I've realized about myself on the journey. I messed it all up. AND I did everything exactly right. Yes, both of those things are true. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time...".
As parents, we constantly wonder if we're doing the "right" thing. If we talked about "whatever issue" enough -- or too much. Did we set the right curfew, put them in the right sport, teach them what they needed to know? Did we yell too much? Did we get them correct treatment, take them to the right therapist, enroll them in the right school. ALL the things.
And the answer to that question is always yes, and no. Every single thing you do has both pros and cons. If we berate ourselves for things we could have, should have, would have done, all we're doing is causing pain.
Drop it all.
Sometimes what we did or didn't do had a wonderful outcome. Other times it was terrible. Mostly it fell somewhere in the middle.
But here's the shift I want you to make.
Even when you did it "wrong," you did it right. When you messed it up, your child learned from that situation. They learned perseverance, resilience, forgiveness, compassion, and many other things that are some of the most valuable life lessons. Did you know that you are SUPPOSED to make lots of mistakes as a parent?
We are both our child's greatest blessing and their greatest trial. But trials are just a different kind of blessing. Trials are the resistance that make us stronger; the fire that refines us.
One of my favorite sayings, is, "You either win or you learn. You never lose."
It's the truth.
So let go of all those should have, would have, could haves. They're useless. Embrace yourself as a parent in all your humanity. Your strengths and your shortcomings. There are no perfect parents, so stop trying to be one. It paralyzes you and keeps you from loving yourself and connecting with your children. If you're reading this, you're clearly trying. And that's enough.
Actually, that's everything.