by Joanie Butman
The most amazing thing about Mother’s Day is that despite my glut of BPMs (Bad Parenting Moments), my children still graciously present loving cards and choose to honor me by spending the day together. I don’t think there’s a mother alive who doesn’t wish for a do-over on some of her worst days. If she does exist, I don’t want to meet her. Wait, I already have. I was surrounded by them when my kids were young.
You know the type. The ones in every school meeting who touted their superior parenting skills, offering unsolicited advice on everything from toilet training to college admissions. At least I didn’t have to deal with social media, which now offers a platform on which to highlight their children’s achievements, which somehow become affirmation of their childrearing expertise. They may not realize it yet, but their progenies will probably end up on some therapist’s couch along with everyone else’s.
That’s the privilege of becoming a parent. We all get to pass down our unique brand of insanity to our children. Does time heal all wounds? No, but a good therapist will, which is why I’ve compensated for my imperfect parenting by offering to subsidize my children’s therapy. It’s the least I can do. I’ve also kept copious notes so they won’t waste funds trying to recall specific examples of their mom’s “issues.” I even had it bound for their convenience and appropriately entitled it, The Issue Room. My introduction begins, “If you don’t think you’ve got issues, then you’ve just discovered one of yours.” Maybe I should forward it to all those ‘perfect’ moms.
Years ago, I tried to jumpstart the process by bringing them to family therapy. On the way home from our one and only visit, I asked my kids what the therapist said. They answered in unison, “He said you were crazy.” You can imagine my reaction – or maybe not. They defended themselves, “Don’t blame us. You were the one who forced us to go.” I called the therapist as soon as I got home and, if he thought I was crazy before, my conversation confirmed his original diagnosis. I told him indeed I was insane for paying him $250 to tell my children something they determined years ago. Sadly, giving birth doesn’t cure personal defects; it usually magnifies them. It’s the most humbling job I’ve ever undertaken.
I’ll bet even Mary had her moments. If we think the responsibility of parenting is scary, can you imagine being chosen to be the mother of God’s son? You definitely don’t want to screw that up. Plus, one of her worst BPMs is recorded for eternity when she loses Jesus who then gives her what I consider a snarky comment after she’s been searching for him for days!
“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49)
Scripture doesn’t describe what ensued, but it would give me great comfort and encouragement to discover she marched him out of the temple by his ear, exclaiming, “Don’t be a wise guy. Get on the camel. We’ll discuss it when we get home!!” Because, God’s son or not, that’s what I would have done though the language would’ve been more colorful. I remember losing my kids on occasion when they were little. While it was momentary, it felt like an eternity as I frantically searched for them. It’s terrifying! The crushing guilt came later once they were safe.
Mothers are particularly hard on themselves, and why not? Everything gets blamed on them – in perpetuity. We’re the smoking gun in therapy. I listen to moms all the time (young and old) bemoan their frequent failings. I perceive these women as model parents and can’t imagine them losing their temper (or their children) or doing any of the things that haunt me. As moms, we hold ourselves up to an impossible standard of perfection because we are fully aware of the potential damage our mistakes can cause.
We can’t go back for a do-over, but blessedly God offers us a new opportunity every morning to choose to do things a different way. Our parenting skills are always being refined because parenting adult children offers a whole new set of challenges. My lengthy list of BPMs is nowhere near completion because neither am I.
As I walk down memory lane today, remembering the many good times and hilarious moments (even the bad ones develop their own humor over time), I realize maybe I wasn’t such a bad mom after all. Imperfect and unconventional, for sure, but definitely all in. And isn’t that what really matters at the end of the day? In his devotional, Family Ties, John Fischer reminds us that “The real key is not how perfect we are, but how committed we are to each other. How much are we tied together at the end of the day?”
My prayer for all of us imperfect moms is one for healing. May we choose to invite Jesus into those moments we’d just as soon forget - if only our kids would let us. With Christ by our side, may we then choose to view them through His lens of compassion and mercy. That’s a Mother’s Day gift we can enjoy all year long.