Battle Hymn of the Earthworm Father

Perfect parents scare me. Honestly I consider nearly every parent beside myself to have far greater wisdom and judgment than I, and they scare me because next to their perfections my own weaknesses, mistakes, misjudgments, and oversights seem legion. I’m working on my sixth child, who is now ten, so I should know what I’m doing. But I don’t, and I never will. And standing next to perfect parents reminds me of that.

Yesterday I was struggling with parenthood. I was lamenting how hard it is and how lost I feel. I was feeling the weight of the myriad of irreversible decisions with life altering implications. Parenting offers so little margin for error, it seems, that each decision is magnified beyond proportion.

I would not trade any of the 136 years of parenting God has given me (that’s what it adds up to) nor any of the six children who have so deeply wedged themselves into my heart. But that does not mean that it is easy. If I were to write a book about parenting, the best I could do for a title would be Battle Hymn of the Earthworm Father for all the strength I bring to the matter. Tiger Mom and Dragon Father live in a different universe.

Consequently, when I can find them, it is refreshing to hang out with other parents willing to speak what it feels like to parent. Anne Lamott has been my companion recently thanks to my wife via a friend. She puts the weight of this into words which resonate with me.

Once her seven year-old son wanted to go paragliding, in tandem, with an expert, but still off a 1500 foot cliff. Perfect parents, of course, would have no second thoughts and no inner struggle. They’d know just what to do and when and how. The rest of us struggle with such things.

“What confused me, however, what how much freedom I was supposed to give Sam. I’m unclear about the fine line between good parenting and being overly protective. I get stumped by the easy test questions….”

I feel comfortable with someone willing to say that the easy questions stump her. They do me, too. The fine lines disappear for me. I don’t know the rules.

She was told that she needed to pray about the question. I identified with her here, too.

“Here are the two best prayers I know: ‘Help me, help me, help me,’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.'”

Parenting often reduces me to such simplicity.

Later, when Lamott talks about her angry response when after asking her son to go without TV for a day he turned it on anyway, I realized I’d met a parenting peer.

I wish I were a perfect parent. But if I were I guess I’d look at my children as the product of my own righteousness. As it is, God continues to remind me that they are gifts of his grace, not my own competence.

Earthworm father needs to hear that.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

7 thoughts on “Battle Hymn of the Earthworm Father

  1. I love your title. Don’t worry that you don’t feel like a perfect parent. I was a teacher for three years and I always found that the parents who were sure that their parenting was beyond reproached were the ones who had the most obnoxious or damaged children!

  2. Jenny

    Honestly Randy, I sometimes feel the most inadequate when I look at Kye and he is SUCH a handful at only 16mo. I lose my cool. My methods aren’t working. Then I feel so quilt ridden that this child deserved to be adopted by a better person than me. I feel like maybe he lost out on the “adoption wheel of fortune.” Today I feel like your previous blog on the “voices” fits me in my single-parenting mode.

  3. Love Anne Lamott’s stuff. Earthy and real, like life.

    Randy, I will often share your wisdom with others when I am reminded of what you said: “Most of my parenting challenges come upon me suddenly and without warning!” That one resonates every time. Thanks for your ongoing & steadfast encouragement bro…

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