Parenting is a demanding, complex, energy-draining, exciting, rich, and endlessly rewarding role.

Being a parent is one of the most challenging and beautiful things I have ever done. But, I have not often done it particularly well. My failures as a parent could fill volumes.

There are truths I have glimpsed since my early days as a father that I wish I had begun to grasp much sooner. These insights only gradually became clear to me after my children grew into the beautiful, luminous, wise human beings they have become, in spite of the often inept role I played as their father.

(this post is dedicated to one of the finest young moms I know)

The lessons I have learned since my function as caregiver for my children morphed into friend and companion, are applicable as much to fathers as mothers. But, since tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I have called these lessons “Mom’s To-Do List”:

  • Trust the deep inner beauty, truth, wisdom, and strength that are your true nature.

There are so many parenting “experts” out there, so many voices telling you how to parent and what is best for your child. Some advice can be helpful. But the real wisdom is not “out there”; the truth you need lies deep within. The most important thing you can do as a parent is listen to and act upon that voice of truth that resides within your innermost being.

  • Encourage your child to trust the deep inner beauty, truth, wisdom, and strength with which your child was born.

#2 is only possible when you start with #1. Your child needs to see that you believe in the inner beauty, truth, wisdom, and strength that exist within you. By seeing that you trust this reality in yourself your child will begin to gain access to the truth in their deepest being. The one thing as a parent you most want is for your child to find and trust their own inner strength and truth and to live authentically from that place.

  • Trust the strength and resilience in your child.

Your child is vastly stronger and more resilient than you have ever imagined. Many children have suffered through truly terrible parenting and have grown to become beautiful luminous well-adjusted human beings. Don’t aim to be a terrible parent; but don’t create an identity out of your worst moments. Your capacity to mess up your child is far less than you fear. Children have an inner strength stronger than your worst days.

  • Understand that your child is a unique human being.

All people share certain basic qualities. But, we are all unique. Patterns of parenting that work with one child will not work with another. Diversity is often messy; but your job is not to create “tidy”. Your job is to listen deeply to the uniqueness of your child. The most important question you can ask as a parent is, “What is my child’s behaviour really saying?” When you listen to your child, your child begins to discover their own unique beauty.

  • Be gentle with your child.

Although children are strong and resilient, they will be encouraged to uncover their true nature more by your gentleness, listening, and respect, than by your pushing and demanding. When you approach your child with openness and willingness to hear what they are truly saying and who they really are, you will help them uncover for themselves the best way for  their life.

  • Be gentle with yourself.

Cut yourself some slack. Cut yourself lots of slack. There are few irredeemable actions. Your parenting is not defined by your worst moments. Your parenting is defined by the slow accumulation of choices, attitudes, actions, and words that build a consistent pattern over time. The fact that there are moments when you contradict the values you most cherish is an opportunity for your child to learn that life means not giving up just because we fall down.

  • Never forget your child does not need a “perfect” parent.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” parent. We all fall short. It is one of the foundational realities of the human condition that we let each other down. We inflict pain on one another. It is unavoidable.  Your child needs to learn from you that “failure” is not the end of the world. When we we miss the mark we do not quit; we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and carry on. This is how children learn to function in the flawed reality we all inhabit.

  • Keep in your mind and heart that all your child really needs is to know you love them.

Your child needs to know that, in the end, whatever happens, you are their most fierce and determined advocate. You may get angry, be grumpy, short-tempered, irritable, but when anything comes into their lives that threatens their well-being, they need to know that your support and love are unwavering. The only wall they need you to build around them is the wall of love. The only discipline they require, is the discipline of living deeply in tune with love.

Perhaps the most important verse in the Bible for parenting is I Peter 4:8 which says,

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of hä-mär-tē’-ä.

The Greek word hä-mär-tē’-ä is made up of the negation ha and the root mär-tē’-ä which means “origin” or “form”. So hä-mär-tē’-ä is anything that negates our original form. We are beings who were originally formed “in the image and likeness of God.” We are originally beauty, truth, light, goodness, kindness, compassion, and love.

At times we forget our true nature, lose touch with that reality, and live in ways that negate our luminous nobility. When we live as something other than what we most truly are, we create pain and chaos. But love is stronger. Love “covers” over all those ways in which we have lived as less than the people we were created to be.

So, perhaps the last item on Mom’s to-do list is the most important:

  • Relax.

The love you carry in your heart for your children is always there to pick up the pieces.

Sometimes our behaviour falls short of the vision of love we cherish. But love is stronger than all those times we mess up. Love does prevail. The more we trust in that love, the more our natural beauty and wisdom will emerge and the more our children will discover their own inherent strength and truth.

The love you have for your children is the fundamental reality that shapes your relationship with your children. It is not the bad days your they will recall. It is the love your children will always remember in the deepest core of their being.


see also: