I hate to admit it, but I’m a perfectionist, born and bred. As a recent pop song explains, “I got it from my momma” (literally, I did…my mom comes from a long line of perfectionists, so when I feel guilty for my behavior, I blame her and genetics.)
I think some good can come of being a perfectionist, but with it, a lot of bad. Recently, my husband and I decided to go camping. When we were first married, we camped frequently, driving all over, discovering new hiking trails and backwoods. Fast forward four years, two kids later, and we thought to ourselves, how hard could it be?
Our kids love to be outside: three days of exciting play for them and we would all come home happy. After my expert lists and packing, we were ready to go. The kids couldn’t be more excited until an hour into our two-hour drive, when my 18-month-old son realized he was strapped down in a car seat for about an hour longer than he wished, and my three-year-old daughter, grew quite sick of his constant screaming. I brushed all this off thinking we just had to get there and everything would be wonderful.
After arriving at the campsite, I realized I had to do litter pick up from whoever came before us, and once I had picked up half eaten garbage, and pulled my two kids out of two mud puddles, removed about a cup of sand from my son’s mouth, and convinced my daughter that bees will mostly leave you alone if you do the same to them, I thought finally we can relax.
But I was naïve. Setting up two tents with two small children is more than just a little challenging. About two hours later, my husband and I had the campsite ready to go.
I wish I could say the next three days went smoothly. It wasn’t until about 9:30pm on the first night when both kids were screaming at the top of their lungs inside our tent and I figured at least 99% of the campground knew we were there, did we admit to ourselves that leaving the next morning might be a good decision.
At dawn, after both kids awoke with runny noses and quite cranky from their lack of regular sleep, I actually realized that going home that day was the only option. We packed up and headed out. About five minutes away from home, my daughter announced she would love to go back to the campsite and that camping was so exciting.
Feeling a bit of disbelief, I realized that even though I felt like I had failed, my children had actually had the time of their lives, sleep deprived and sick or not. It hit me: what seemed like a mess of a trip to me was actually the best couple of days for my little ones.
I really think many of us as parents can focus on making sure everything is perfect that we miss out on the joy that our children experience simply by the time we spend with them.
2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Isn’t it refreshing to know that because of God’s grace, perfect parenting isn’t the requirement? Investing time in our children, loving them, and laughing with them is what they will remember when they grow up, not how perfect their first camping trip was.