by Liz. S, former homeschool, Aussie mum whose children are all adults now.

If you follow the right recipe, do everything right, then your kids will come out of the oven perfect.

This has probably all been said before somewhere by someone, in every generation, but it still seems like the first time, when it becomes real to us.

I’ve had this growing realisation over the last few years that I have been wrong. Somebody may have told me before, but you
know how it is when you just know you’re right! I’ve wondered over the last few years, as I’ve grown up, why nobody has every never slapped me before to knock some sense into me. But, you know, we’re all nice people and we don’t do that in our culture – more’s the pity. 😉

I used to firmly believe that if parents did the job right, then the kids would turn out right. In the past I have listened to mothers with older children and younger children too, pour out their hearts and share their anguish over their wayward children. Although I sympathised with their distress, I secretly thought – well you must have done something wrong, or why else would your kid be behaving in this way. I think I deserve a slap for such a naive idea. It’s not wrong to be young and idealistic, but it wrong to be smug, especially before my own children had grown up.

I have come to believe that some of my beliefs that I thought were biblical, were in fact more tribal. My tribe was the homeschool christian tribe, and I don’t think I was the only one who believed the recipe idea either. 😉 We do bang on about training up a child in the way they should go and they won’t depart from it. I’ve heard that taught as being a promise, a guarantee, that if you do the training right, you’ll get a good kid. This leads us to the alternative, that if we have less than perfect kids, we must have done something wrong in the training department. What a burden and a threat to live under. We put ourselves in bondage of perfection.

Now I’m at the stage where our kids are grown, and now they’re at the age where they can tell me everything I did wrong in bringing them up. :o I have had moments where I thought maybe I had wasted 15 years homeschooling them. They didn’t appreciate my efforts or my sacrifices. Maybe I should have gone and got a job? That was an awful feeling.

I have come to the realisation that all generations go through these cycles. We’re kids, we think our parents are perfect. We’re teeneagers, we think our parents are old fashioned and narrow minded, we’re young adults, we can see what our parents did wrong and tell them. We have kids, and realise our parents were pretty resilient. We know we’re not perfect as parents, but we expected our parents to be perfect. We realise our parents are people too, who have struggles and make mistakes. Then our kids become teenagers, and the cycle begins again.

Whether we made the sacrifices to homeschool, to not work, or to send our kids to expensive Christian/private schools, they still have a free will. Despite our very best efforts, our kids and ourselves will make mistakes and poor choices. It is a terrible and unnecessary burden to hold ourselves entirely responsible for the choices of our adult children.

If kids came with a rock solid guarantee why would we need faith? Why do we need a comforter as in the Holy Spirit if we are
promised a perfect outcome? I believe now, that the best we can do, is do the best we can, with what we know at the time. We do get smarter and wiser as we get older, and can see some of our own mistakes. But I just make peace with myself, knowing that I did the best I knew how at the time. I might do things differently now, but that’s not a choice I have to make. Time cannot be turned back.

I would like to encourage you that no matter how your child turns out, or is behaving, whether they’re having a 2 year old tantrum, or a twenty year old tantrum, you are doing your best right now, with what you know right now, and with your history you’re dealing with right now. It is possible to do your very best and still get a disappointing result, and feel responsible. All the same, your best is good enough.

We are responsible for putting all the ingredients together, the training, the education, faith elements etc. We can put them in the bowl, mix them up and pour the mixture into a certain cake mold. In faith we hope our cake will turn out as we imagine. But there comes a point where we close the oven door, and we can’t open it again to peek, until it is fully cooked. While it’s cooking, there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome except wait. This is where we need to have faith and be at peace with ourselves, that we’ve done all we could the outcome is out of our hands. Yelling through the oven door won’t make any difference to the cake. Wringing our hands and hovering over the oven door won’t help or change anything. We’ve done all we could to influence the outcome of the cake.

I homeschooled in the hope of redeeming the perfect child guarantee. I tried my hardest, did my best most of the time – I slacked off sometimes too. 😉 But the truth for me now is that I homeschooled because I truly believed it was the best option for my children – regardless of how they turned out. As a parent I get to choose my children’s education. What I didn’t realise was that I don’t get to choose the outcome.

Another realisation too was that I spent a lot of my parenting trying not to hurt my kids feelings, and keep them on side. Essentially I wanted my kids to like me. It’s a weird realisation that I cared if my children liked me and approved of me. I was over zealous as an approval seeker and people pleaser, which influenced my parenting style. I’m ashamed to say in all honesty, that I did manipulate my children to make them like me – which made me feel good.

Now I’m growing up, I don’t care if my kids like me. I did my best as I saw fit and there’s no shame in that. But now I will make decisions because they are right and true, not to please my children or avoid upsetting them. Of course we all love each other, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that we all like each other all the time. I don’t base my decisions on the shifting sands of “like”, but on the rock of love – which doesn’t always give nice feelings. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes it hurts.

I’ve been shocked to discover that my kids didn’t turn out as I imagined. I thought they all be like me. We’d understand each other and all get along. We’d all hold the same values and beliefs so there would be no conflict. What a shock! I home schooled to have creative thinkers as children, and guess what – they’re different to me and each other. They have minds of their own and a free will. It seems so stupid to have believed this – because I didn’t turn out like my parents or siblings. But I guess I thought, if I do this right, I can make my kids what I want. But that’s not the deal, whether I homeschooled them or not.

So save yourself some agony.

Learn from a self confessed idiot. Release yourself from trying to raise perfect kids just like yourself. Do your best – it will be good enough. Other parents whose kids are going nuts, did their best too. Some kids are just born difficult and some are born compliant. I have one of each. It happens. It’s not your fault. Love yourself and don’t try to keep the kids approval. Approving of yourself is enough.

Give more grace to yourself and others. We are not all going to sit around a campfire with our kids singing Kumbayah. Conflict is just a fact of life. It’s how we manage it that makes the difference.

I suppose in the end, God has given me quite number of almighty slaps!! I thought I would be educating and shaping my children and be in control, but in the end, God has used them to shape me and educate me and I realise God is, was and always will be the one in control.