It seems that almost daily, I put my foot in my mouth. I usually have the best of intentions, but what’s in my heart seems to take a detour in the journey to my brain and then right out of my mouth.
During my life, I have received many blank looks of confusion and widened eyes of offense. To assuage my chagrin and cover my tracks regarding my social missteps, I regularly find myself making phone calls to those on the receiving end of my vocal slip-ups (“hey, you know I didn’t really mean that bit about your kid’s haircut”) or, if the offense is particularly grave, deliver a handwritten note (“I really don’t think you look pregnant, I was just having a severe lapse of judgment”).
Perhaps I’m simply paranoid that I’m offending every other person I talk to. It shows a special sensitivity toward others’ feelings, right? Or maybe I really am socially awkward (sigh).
As parents, we all have faults that we hope to correct. While at the same time, we constantly correct our children in hopes of setting them on the right path to maturity. As I stated, my personal failings normally fall in the category of “social blunders.” Even with my kids, I occasionally say things that I want to immediately bite back. Maybe your parental faults are of a different nature (a quick temper or lackadaisical approach to discipline). As parents, we all have individual strengths and weaknesses, and our weaknesses make us human.
This doesn’t mean that we should excuse our behavior when we mess up. We should never err on purpose and chalk it up to, “Sure, I'm a parent, but I’m only human.” That’s lazy. But when we make those inevitable mistakes with our children, we can fix them and move on. We really shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.
It's important to note that our mistakes are proof that we are trying.
Progress is progress
“One step forward, two steps back.” However, maybe next time you’ll find that you’ve taken multiple steps forward. Our small victories propel us forward and self-motivate us. For example, seeing that I’ve comforted or helped someone in a positive way motivates me to keep trying to impact others for good. Even if I inadvertently offend one friend, at least I’ve strengthened our relationship later with a sincere apology and good conversation.
Similarly, when we read a book with our kids, spend time doing our daughters' hair or play a board game with our teenagers, we show them love. Perhaps we lost our temper this morning and said something regrettable, but a hug and time spent together later go a long way in strengthening our relationships with our kids.
Our failings humble us
I believe that we have weaknesses to help keep us grounded. Even the person who seems utterly perfect and fault-free has shortcomings.
Usually, many of us turn to God in our times of need. When we pour out our troubles and worries to him, he comforts us. We feel nourished and ready to tackle the world again. Usually, we don’t have a choice. We have to continue living. Our faults humble us, so we turn to God and continue trying.
As parents, I think it helps to admit our weaknesses to our children. “I have a hard time remembering to tell you that I love you! Will you help me?” We can set an example of humility to our kids by asking for their help and forgiveness when we mess up.
We live to learn
We were all put on this earth to learn and progress. For example, when a baby falls, he picks himself up and attempts another step. When a student fails a test, she studies harder the next time and improves her overall grade. Our mistakes give us the momentum to push forward and keep trying to improve ourselves. We continue to learn, grow and progress.
Don’t beat yourself up over your faults and weaknesses. Laugh about them, correct them and try to do better the next time. Remember that your mistakes are part of your individuality and show that you’re learning and improving.
Megan Gladwell is an Indiana native and mother of four. She blogs at bookclub41.blogspot.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.