I have always told my oldest daughter Hannah she is my guinea pig child. I really don’t know what I’m doing with any of my children, but I am particularly clueless with my oldest. Unfortunately, I recently realized there is something else I have done to Hannah that is worse than treating her like a lab mouse. I haven’t done this only to Hannah. I do it to my other children, to friends, complete strangers, to my husband and sometimes to myself. It isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but most of the time with me it is demanded, extreme and unrealistic. Worst of all, I have no idea how to undo it.
Over the years I have inadvertently and subconsciously demanded, usually without words, perfection from my kids. I want them to make perfect choices, say perfect things and do their work perfectly. My motives behind this haven’t been about making me look good (although if I’m honest, that is sometimes the reason), but mostly it has been for their benefit.
If my kids have an amazing faith, this life will not be as hard. If they give perfect effort in school, they will have a better chance in college and at work. If they carry themselves well and speak with perfect confidence perhaps they will not deal with many of the self-deprecating thoughts and behaviors I have struggled with. But regardless of my motives, when perfection isn’t attained I have also subconsciously made my disappointment painfully obvious.
The problem now of course is what to do about it. How do I correct 17 years of expecting perfection, especially now that Hannah will be leaving home soon? Maybe I could take her to Starbucks every morning. What says love better than Starbucks? What if I write her a note and leave it in her car every day? How in the 730 days I have left with her could I help her understand I am genuinely sorry I expected perfection all these years?
When I became aware of this problem, I got a pit in my stomach. The stress of fixing my mistakes is… stressful. But then the Holy Spirit put a word in my head telling me exactly what I needed to do. Relax. I did not need a plan. I did not need to fix what I had done and will do again (unfortunately). I needed to remember Jesus Christ died for all the mistakes I have made and will make again. He also would at the right time and in the way Hannah needed, show me how to let her know I don’t expect her to be perfect. He knows the desires of my heart so I need to relax, pray and be open to opportunities the Holy Spirit will give me to show Hannah grace and love.
“Lord, Thank you for dying on a cross because I am a sinner who wants perfect kids, who loves Target and who swears sometimes. Thank you that because I am already forgiven I truly can relax. Help me love everyone in my sphere of influence without expecting them to be perfect and thank you for the freedom that comes from life in you. In Your Name, Amen.”