July 16, 2016

The Perfect Parent

Surely they are out there somewhere.  Parents who are doing a great job at being, well, parents.  They are the ones who should become foster parents.  The ones who should adopt.

A dad who comes home from work at the end of every day, excited about spending time with his kids and hearing all about the details of his wife’s day.  Who never gets distracted by the game on tv or the latest news update or the urgent emails from work.  Who always has the energy (and skill!) to tackle the home repairs, patiently teaching his eager son the tricks of the trade while doing so.  Who coaches Little League and serves as a Scout leader in his spare time.

There must be a mom, too, who never raises her voice at her children, gently training and correcting and mentoring each one according to their particular personalities and interests.  The mom whose house is always clean because she consistently uses the chore chart that she created for herself and those in her household.  Who prepares nutritious meals, patiently showing her eager daughter the way around the kitchen while doing so.  Who serves as the homeroom mother in her spare time.

Where are they, these perfect parents?  They have so much to offer a child in need!  They would be exactly the kind of parents that an orphaned child is wishing for at this very moment.  Why aren’t they signing up to become foster parents?  Why aren’t they the ones who are adopting?

They won’t.  And they never will.  Why?  Because they can’t!  The reason that they remain invisible, nameless, “out there” somewhere, is because they don’t exist!  Perfect parents are mythical creatures that only exist in the imagination.  Search the whole world over, only to find that there is no perfect parent.  Every home in every village or town or city is filled with imperfect parents, doing their very best to raise imperfect children.

Sure, one dad might be more engaged and involved, but another father down the street may have more patience.  One mother may be young with lots of enthusiasm and energy, while her neighbor has the wisdom and experience that comes with her years. 

One orphaned child, the one who has only known uncertainty and hunger and unimaginable fear, may thrive in a super-structured environment.  In a home defined by consistency and predictability.  Meanwhile, another child, the one who has been traumatized and badly injured, may connect and miraculously heal with a more free-spirited parent who patiently and gently nurtures, taking the time to listen and understand.

There is the couple, long married with oodles of children, but living far away from their relatives.  Or the single person who longs to welcome a child into his or her large extended family who live in the same apartment building.  Both have their own kinds of support network - an abundance of co-workers, neighbors, church family and honorary grandparents who would love to offer support and encouragement and practical help at a moment’s notice.

Parents can be young or old, single or married, rich or poor, have a minivan-load of children or just staring out.  They can be any ethnicity.  Each one has unique gifts and abilities, and every situation is different and cannot be compared to anyone else’s.

It’s so tempting for parents to think that they’re not good enough.  That they don’t quite measure up.  To compare themselves to bloggers and to their Facebook friends and to the filtered Instagram photos of happy families at the beach.  To find the cute craft ideas on Pinterest, the ones that other parents are creating with their kids.  To observe the other parents walking into church with their well-behaved little ones in tow.

But it’s not only that other parents seem to meet the imaginary standards of perfection.  For those who have already raised their children or are even now in the thick of it, it’s the sense of inadequacy that lies deep within the heart.  It’s to compare the ideal parent of yesterday’s hopes and dreams with the very human parent who is just trying to make it through today.  The goal had been to be extraordinary and amazing, but the reality is that we are simply ordinary.  So imperfect.

But here’s the thing . . .

As the Adopt US Kids ad campaign wisely affirms:  You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.

A parent doesn’t have to be perfect!  Really?

Imagine the children and teenagers, who are at this moment packing up all of their earthly belongings and treasures into a trash bag, because, through no fault of their own, they are going to be spending the night in yet another stranger’s house.  They don’t have a single person in their world who stays.  Who says, I love you.

As they settle into an unfamiliar bed with a scratchy blanket, as they catch a whiff of the peculiar smells coming from the kitchen, as they wonder what unknown experiences await them at their new school, what are they thinking?  I hope there is someone perfect who will love me?  If I can’t have a perfect parent, it’s better to stuck in the uncertainty of the foster care system?  I like living with strangers while I wait for my social worker to find me a perfect family?

Of course not!  They are praying for a loving parent, not a perfect one! 

And even if, by some chance, they are wishing for a perfect parent . . . what does “perfect” mean anyway?  Never making mistakes?  Having all the answers?  Not quite.

Perfect:  Exactly fitting the need
in a certain situation or for a certain purpose.

What is the need in this situation?  What is the purpose of a parent?  These children need, more than anything, to belong!  Like all children everywhere, they need someone to say yes.  Someone in their life who is crazy about them, who sees their worth and will fiercely protect them.  Someone who will never give up on them no matter what tomorrow holds.  Someone who will tell them what their young ears may have never heard before:  you matter.  That’s what a parent does.

Perfect:  Having all the required or desirable
elements, qualities, or characteristics.

What are the required qualities to be a parent?  What characteristics are needed?  It’s not a matter of being smart enough or talented enough or energetic enough or resourceful enough or rich enough.  There is really only one quality needed:  Love.  That’s it.  That’s the only requirement!  A parent who knows how to love a child, who understands what it means to put a child’s needs before his own, who gives and serves and sacrifices, expecting nothing in return . . . that is love.  Love is the one thing a child needs more than anything else.  Love is what makes a parent.   

Surely they are out there somewhere. Parents who are doing a great job at being, well, parents.  Parents who would exactly fit the need in a desperate child’s situation.  Parents who know what it means to love.  They are the ones who should become foster parents.  The ones who should adopt.  The ones who truly would be the perfect parents.

For more information on adopting a child
from the U.S. foster care system,

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