For those of you with tweenaged girls like me, this title cut ought to be familiar. This inspirational song meant to build esteem and challenge the status quo of what it means to be popular and to fit into “the in crowd” could become the anthem of girls aged 10 -14 across the world. But today, I ask you as parents to look yourselves in the mirror and sing along with little Selena Gomez. With the pressures of raising children in the new millennium increasing daily, we can sometimes question our ability to be effective parents. We find ourselves facing issues and challenges that our parents never had to consider, much less worry about. We read all the books, watch all the shows, download all the apps to ensure we stay atop the parenting game. But who says you’re not perfect?
When I was pregnant with Olivia, I was ready. I had read every book on expectancy, child birth and parenting you could find. I had taken all the classes – pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding – and made hubby take them with me. There was nothing I hadn’t studied – place the baby on her back to sleep, use cold cabbage leaves to overcome engorged breasts, no pacifiers to avoid nipple confusion, nurse your baby prevent allergies and illness. I was armed with more book knowledge than any new mom had ever been armed with before. And I had made up my mind about how I was going to give birth and subsequently parent my new baby – no epidural, no formula, no pacifiers. And then, she was born. And all that book knowledge I had acquired was good for nothing with a 2 day old screaming baby who latched on like a vacuum cleaner and screamed bloody murder for no apparent reason. And in as much as I am sure my mother laughed at me a few times because of my new aged parenting – “What do you mean you’re not going to bottle feed?” she said – her 27 year old advice wasn’t always helpful either. The nurse at the pediatrician’s office actually laughed at me when I asked her to prescribe paregoric for Olivia’s apparent heartburn. I was devastated the night I sent Harold out for pacifiers and cabbage. Thank goodness for Super Walmart. Why was my plan not working? What had I failed to read? What class had I missed? Why wasn’t I the perfect parent I had hoped to be?Well, let’s consider what it means to be perfect (pur – fekt):
1. adjective – conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type
2. adjective – exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purposeWhat about my parenting methodology was not ideal or exactly fitting for the need at the moment? Nothing. In fact, the notion that I was attempting to meet my child’s needs in every way possible and was concerned about her overall well being (and not my convenience) made everything I did perfect for that situation. My book smarts notwithstanding, the only reason any of my choices could be perceived as less than perfect would be based upon someone else’s observation and judgement of the circumstances.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NASB
Let’s consider what it means to perfect (pur – fekt): verb – to bring to completion; finish.I was trying; trying everything I knew to parent this squiggly, loud, little bundle of joy and sorrow. And once I realized that my book knowledge wasn’t complete I kept trying (different things), praying, and seeking answers and direction from God. And then He was able to work through me and finish the work He’d begun. My situational sorrow was not a measure of my success or failure. It was just the state of being we were in at the time. And it didn’t last. My mistake was thinking that someone else’s assessment of their own predicament should be the measuring stick for my success. As parents we can fall into the trap of measuring our success by someone else’s standard when all we need do is submit our will and ways to God. I committed to work until I found a way to make it work for all of us as a family. And I still do. As my children’s needs change, my parenting changes and continues to evolve. And every step along the way I seek God’s guidance and patience to overcome each challenge with grace. I am being perfected in my parenting.
Turns out both my girls have allergies, even thought I did nurse them both exclusively for 6 months and well beyond 12 months of age. Pacifiers have nothing on the almighty thumb (I still have a thumb sucker at age 8). Cabbage leaves don’t work nearly as well as ice packs. And the pain from contractions in transitional labor is enough to make you pass out – and when I awoke I asked for an epidural. And once I stopped eating the wonderful ham and eggs breakfasts my mom made, Olivia stopped screaming and projectile vomiting so much. We never did give her paregoric, but I did take her to radiology to have a GI scope. That didn’t help much either. But it didn’t kill her. Nor did it stop her from turning 8 today. And if you ask me, she’s just perfect.