thoughts on parenting, religion and failure.

What happens as a parent when you realize you’ve failed on some level? I have been wondering this (and freaking myself out) lately. For some parents, the very idea must be personally mortifying because it’s never been considered a real possibility. A child is a total wild card and you have to be prepared for the best and the worst and (mostly) everything in between.

Recently, I’ve been tallying up my childhood companions and putting them on an untitled list, divvied up according to who is still involved in a local church, loves the Lord and their family and those who don’t. Of course, people change all the time and will continue to change. Sadly, I only have one larger family in mind (and I didn’t grow up with them so they aren’t even on the list!) where all four adult children love and serve their parents, their communities and their local churches.

Is that weird? It seems really low to me. From the people I grew up with, I think it was about 1 out of every 3 who was still on the “good kid” side of the page. Like I said, everyone changes. I was on the bad kid side and frankly a lot of people still count me there even though I’ve since reformed and have settled down. I only counted homeschooling families who raised their kids in church which throws an even bigger wrench in the whole thing. There is no way around it – those are really bad odds.

I can already hear people shouting “If you mess up as an adult, you can’t blame your parents for anything! You can’t blame anyone but yourself!” While I don’t disagree, the incredibly dense people who are shouting consistently fail to distinguish between blame and effect.

If I say “I can’t keep a steady job, I blame my parents,” that’s nonsense. What is fact is to say “My parents did everything for me so I don’t have a very good work ethic.” It sounds like blame, and again the dense and hardheaded among us will not make any distinction in the attitude behind the two statements. Yet (ask anyone who has tried) a good work ethic is difficult to instill in yourself, especially when you’re in your 20s or older.

The thing is, the stubborn people don’t even believe what they are saying. They just don’t know it. Religious folks freak out at the idea of a child being raised by a single mother. They will regale you with dozens of statistics about the effects that single parenthood has on a child, continuing for their entire lives. But simultaneously they preach that regardless of the situation, if a child has two parents yet struggles to adjust as an adult, those struggles are 100% the fault of the child. It doesn’t matter the quality of the childhood, the parents can do no wrong simply because they are together.

It’s preposterous to say that adulthood is affected only by the number of parents involved but not the quality of the job performed. I have friends who were raised by single moms who contribute more to society than people I know with two parents whose parents did terrible jobs. Some of the most amazing people are terrible parents – it’s not a whole sale condemnation of anyone. (I don’t associate with the types who are both terrible parents and terrible people. That is just too much.)

I can’t help but wonder what will happen if my child decides they hate my lifestyle and want nothing to do with me. I might very well be an ass of a parent in which case I can’t say I will blame them for their sentiment. But I’m trying to plan ahead to some extent… in the hopes that my husband and I will somehow beat the odds.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “thoughts on parenting, religion and failure.

  1. Diane D

    As I parented I found it hard to give my children everything I wanted them to have and still instill a strong work ethic. But the older I became the more I came to realize all my children needed was my love and support. They didn’t need hundreds of activities and more stuff, they needed their parents love and unconditional believe that they could do and be anything. We do no favors for our children by giving them stuff or doing everything for them. We parent best by setting a good example and teaching them how to do for themselves. But human nature being what it is I still struggle to be a good parent and a good example.

    • Jana

      I totally agree with Diane. I think teaching children by example is the best thing you can do for them. I see lots of parents that try to “buy their love” and it never seems to work. Spending quality time (and I don’t mean sitting in front of the tv with them) or talking with them is a great way to get to know kids. Actions speak louder than words. Diane raised some great kids… but I’m sure you know that :)

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