“I’m the worst mother in the world. I think I’m ruining my kids,” I exclaimed as tears began to cloud my vision.
Once again “Miz Edith,” my elderly next-door neighbor, wrapped her arms around me and replied, “Susan, you are not the worst mother in the world. You are just in a hard season and you are doing a good job. You will be alright. Your kids will be alright.”
I was in a hard season. We had recently moved to a new town and I had five children ages 7 and under (including colicky twins), a husband with a demanding new job, and no friends, no family, and no help. Except “Miz Edith.”
Many times during those early years I would run across my lawn, often in bare feet and pajamas, knock on her door, and burst into tears. Edith didn’t always give me advice, but she always comforted me. What she gave me was perspective. She reminded me that although this season was hard, it would not last forever. And she reassured me that I was doing a better job than I thought I was.
One of the hardest things about raising young children is that we don’t feel like we are making any progress. We discipline them and they turn around and do it again. We teach them to speak kindly and they are rude once more. We think we are making progress in sibling rivalry and then a fight breaks out.
No matter how hard we try and how many times we tell them, we don’t seem to make any progress.
Recently a father with three young kids said, “If we didn’t care how they turned out, raising them wouldn’t be so hard!” But we do care—so much. One of the things we have to remember in this season is that we are sowing and we are not going to see results for many years. In other areas of life we often see results soon. But not in parenting. Training is a repeated endeavor—over and over and over. We will be less disappointed if we realize they may not get it for several years. We just have to keep at it and not expect fast results.
The problem isn’t just our child’s behavior. We lose our tempers. We overreact. We get frustrated and tired. And when we make a really big mistake we wonder if we are ruining our kids. Our kids are not looking for perfect parents. There aren’t any.
What they need is an honest parent. A parent who is willing to say, “I made a mistake and I am sorry. I should not have reacted that way. I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me?” When our kids see us asking for forgiveness they will be more likely to grow into men and women who are humble enough to ask for forgiveness themselves.
Seek out a “Miz Edith” for your life.
Each of us needs someone older who will give us perspective. But we can also be an Edith in a younger person’s life. I have often thought we should strive to be “sandwich women.” We are the peanut butter in the middle with an older mentor above us and then the bottom bread is someone younger for whom we care.
When you feel like you are ruining your kids remember: Your ability to ruin your children is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem them.
This article originally appeared on MomLife Today, FamilyLife’s blog for moms.