essay

Forget about being a good or bad parent . . .

How many times have you told yourself that you’re a good mom/dad or a bad mom/dad? You’ve probably done it a lot–and if you are like me, you are usually saying to yourself that you aren’t good enough.

The thought of being a good parent or a bad parent is not very useful. First, who is coming up with the classification anyway? We are all very different people and we have our individual ways of doing things, so there is no universal ideal of a good parent.

We create our own ideas of what a good parent is and what a bad parent is. And when we measure ourselves against the ideal, we forget that we made it up in our heads.

And usually we are doing some things better than other things. And parenting is so huge, that even when we do something well, there is something else that we are forgetting to do. We can’t be perfect parents all at once. It’s sort of impossible.

So we should stop telling ourselves that we are good or bad parents. It doesn’t do any good at all. It’s not the point, anyway. The point is to love our children, not to get a passing grade in parenting.

We should keep striving to be better–but we should do it for the benefit of our children, not so that we feel good about ourselves.

And in the end of it, I don’t want to be a good mom as much as I want to be an instrument in the hands of God to do what he would have me do. And that may mean forgetting about whether I am a good mom or a bad mom and just trying a little harder.

essay

Pain can be good

In the city finals course during an episode of American Ninja Warriors last year, Jessie Graff was trying to finish the course but was exhausted and didn’t have the strength to finish. She fell, knowing she had reached her limit. But throughout it all, she was smiling. When asked about it during the interview after the run, she said that she was smiling because she knew she was getting stronger.

I have remembered that for a while. I tend to avoid pain–a lot of us do. But lots of good things in life cause us pain, whether it’s the physical pain of exercise, the anxiety of talking to new people, or the frustration of trying a new skill. Often, the things we value cause us a a lot of pain too: I value my children and love them a lot, so when they are crying or struggling, it makes me hurt too because I want them to be happy.

There are two lessons in all of this:

  1. Often, we have pain because we are doing something difficult. And since we aren’t as strong as we want to be, it hurts. But if we persist and hang in there, we will become stronger. Pain can be good because it means we are stretching ourselves to do better. Instead of getting frustrated and just always doing what we are already good at, it’s better to push ourselves–it will hurt, but it’s worth it.
  2. The things that we value can cause us a lot of pain because we value them so much. This pain can cause us to do a lot of stupid stuff when we try to avoid it–like getting angry at our children when they are crying. We really want them to be happy–that’s why their crying is bothering us in the first place. But when we misinterpret our pain and forget what we actually value, we end up hurting the things that we love the most. A better way is knowing that the pain is okay and that avoiding the pain isn’t the answer–remembering what we love and value is.

Avoiding pain can be incredibly damaging. Now, sometimes we have pain that tells us we need to change our actions–like when we are injured, or we feel guilt. But it’s not like good choices lead to comfort and bad choices lead to pain. Sometimes, really good choices result in a lot of pain. But they are still good choices. The easy choice can often be a very negative thing.

We should remember what we value and push ourselves to become better and better at living those values. While that can be painful, it can also bring us a great amount of joy.

essay

It’s okay to make a decision even if you are uncertain

Recently, I’ve been making some decisions about my life. If you know me well, you know I am not the most decisive person in the world. I feel a lot of uncertainty sometimes, and it’s difficult for me to make a decision.

Part of this is that I see pros and cons without being able to measure them very well, and I focus on the fact that even good decisions aren’t perfect. I can’t see the future, so I’m not exactly sure if I will really enjoy something or not. I don’t know if it will be worth it. But I have to make that decision anyway.

I want to be 100% certain of something before I decide to do it. But I’m rarely very certain of anything.

So instead of just going for it, I languish in the land of uncertainty.

The other day, as I was rethinking a decision yet again, I realized that I could still make the decision and be uncertain about it. I didn’t have to make a complex calculation of what was best and if it would be worth my time and money. I could just go for it and see.

I think that’s what decisive people are good at: they aren’t certain all the time, but they are willing to make decisions and go forward even with the uncertainty. If it feels and sounds mostly right, that’s enough.

I want to know exactly how things will turn out before they happen. I’m afraid of making mistakes. But we will make mistakes, and it’s okay. We just do the best with what we have and go forward without fear.

essay

Happily Ever After

And they lived happily ever after . . .

It’s the ending to children’s stories, and it’s of course entirely untrue. They don’t live happily ever after, because they will eventually die. That’s life.

Coming-of-age stories end with the main character supposedly finding out who they are and starting on the direction they will continue for the rest of their lives.

Except for when they grow up, they are often met with radical life changes and difficult trials.

I had a really happy childhood. For the most part, I knew who I was and what I wanted in life. I had a home that felt comforting and inviting and a family who loved me. It was a happily ever after.

Then I grew up. Life can be really difficult as an adult. It’s wonderful, but there are uncertainties and trials and difficult realities.

So happily ever after belongs to children’s stories, to the thought that you can dream and your dreams can come true. To the idea that you can have life all figured out and be the person you want to be. It belongs to the one time in life when someone takes care of you, you truly feel at home, and you never have to be alone.

I know not everyone has a happy childhood, so it’s not universally applicable. Some people never really get their happily ever after. But happily ever after is never the destination anyway. The whole picture of life is bigger and scarier, but also much more beautiful.