Thursday, 4 February 2010
When you feel like a parenting failure
My 5-year-old son’s piano teacher broke up with us last week.
If your first thought is “why in the world would you sign up a 5-year-old boy for piano lessons?”— you’re on the right track.
The break-up was actually a blessing. I’d been having the same thoughts: He’s just not ready, I don’t want to fight with him over going lessons instead of playing with Grandma, I want him to love music and he’s getting really tired of it, we just avoid practicing at home because it’s another cause of nagging and pushing and he gets enough of that when it’s time to get dressed or eat or go to the bathroom or get in the car every day.
Making him take a break from Legos or Pokemon or cars to hear me correct him for 20 minutes? Was not happening.
And of course, his teacher knew it. She said all the right things, was very kind, suggested another format might work better for him. I agreed, wholeheartedly, with all of it. I hadn’t wanted to back out on a commitment, or put her out and take away some of her income. So when she suggested taking a break, it was a relief.
Then the old accusing dialogue in my head started up.
Looks like you failed at that, it says. You never practiced with him. How is that showing him responsibility?
He’s so young, I say back.
Right — and you were such an idiot to sign him up in the first place.
Well, it’s over now and I know better. We’ll try again when he’s older.
Well, you probably screwed that up, too. Now he’ll hate piano forever.
Do you see a way I can win here? Me neither.
Humility or Pride?
Do you know who would never talk to me like that? Jesus.
When I let that dialogue go on, when I dwell on it, beating myself up continually over a litany of failures, it’s not humility. Jesus never beat himself up, made reference to how he could do better. He showed example after example of true humility, of a servant’s heart, of showing love, love, love to those people around him who couldn’t stop screwing up.
If I want to be like him, I need to follow his example of love, love, love — loving myself. Showing myself compassion.
Because when I go round and round about my failures, it’s actually the opposite of humility. It’s pride.
I’m embarrassed because I thought myself a “good mom,” and a good mom always has her kids practice piano. I didn’t fail my son; he’s happy to be done. He loves music, so I’m sure we’ll come back to this.
I failed to live up to my image of the perfect mother. And my pride is wounded when I recognize I’m not that woman.
And then I’m relieved when I realize that I don’t want to be her.
I don’t want to chase after a false image, or measure myself up to an ideal I could never reach.
I want to chase Jesus. And that means compassion, love and above all — grace. Grace for the mess, grace for the mistakes. Grace even for the way “good mom” got in the way again.
How do you show yourself compassion in parenting, especially when you feel like you failed?