My daughter turns 16 today. I watch small children at church, play with our younger nieces and nephews, and wonder where my little girl has gone. I know it’s her job to grow up and become increasingly independent, I’m enjoying the young woman she’s becoming, and I pray daily that her father and I have given her a good foundation on which to build her adult life.
Claire is our only child—our “miracle.” As one of eight children, I never dreamt that I’d be raising a child without siblings. It wasn’t until we started paying her Catholic high school tuition that I ever voiced that I’m glad we have “just one.” And even that wasn’t truly heartfelt.
My husband and I have doubted our parenting many times along the way—I suspect all parents do. Yet, when we’ve encountered challenges with Claire, we often second guess ourselves since we don’t have another child who was parented similarly but didn’t present those challenges. We wonder: What part of this is personality and what part is parenting? It’s the old nature vs. nurture question.
One of the courses I took as I worked on my master’s degree introduced me to the concept of “good enough” mothering. As the youngest person in the class and not yet a parent, I didn’t experience the great relief the other students (all women, all mothers) expressed upon learning of this concept. Essentially, it says
being a good mother does not mean being a perfect mother. A good enough mother is good enough. [She]
- loves her child but not all of his behavior.
- isn’t always available to her child whenever he wants her.
- can’t possibly prevent all her child’s frustrations and moods.
- has needs of her own which may conflict with those of her child.
- loses it sometimes.
- is human and makes mistakes.
- learns from her mistakes.
- uses her own best judgment.
—Elaine Heffner, CSW, Ed.D., pbs.org/parents
While we may fail our children at times, if we love them and introduce them to the love of God—our perfect parent—we’re doing a “good enough” job. My parents are far from perfect, but they did the best they could and raised us with love. They also raised us to seek relationship with God. I smile as I recall one of my dad’s favorite sayings (he has many): “Jesus is your friend if you’ll let him be.”
See what my co-worker, Susan Hines-Brigger, has to say about a variety of parenting topics in her monthly “A Catholic Mom Speaks” column (formerly “Faith-filled Family”) in St. Anthony Messenger magazine. She has four children and oodles of wit and wisdom to share.
Look for upcoming issues of Every Day Catholic on parenting topics. In the June issue, Robert Lockwood, author of A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life: Virtues for Men, will address virtues for fathers. Scheduled for September is Kathy Coffey’s input on Christian parenting and nurturing faith in a secular world.
When you make a mistake in parenting or anywhere else in life, admit it, apologize and then go “celebrate your humanity.” God created us as imperfect beings, called to strive for God’s perfection. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and find both comfort and guidance in God’s perfect love for us, the children of God.
top photo by Michelle Meiklejohn/www.freedigitalphotos.com