Jumping In Puddles: Loving Imperfect Kids

I sure wish I had perfect kids. After all, I am a perfect parent, of course. Do I hear an echo of laughter?

Parenting imperfect kids

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The truth is that in 17+ years of parenting, I’ve realized over and over again that my kids aren’t perfect…and neither am I. I first published this story some years ago when I was a mom with little people. My youngest people are now tweens. And they’re still not perfect…and neither am I.

Once upon a time I was a young mom who knew it all. I was really good at this whole parenting and discipline thing, and my kids were very well-behaved- at least in public.

One fine day I took my children to a carnival/festival downtown in our city. Kathryne, my oldest was about 5. Charles- all boy- was about 3. And Ashlyne, my third, was a baby. The restructuring of our downtown area was pretty new, and there were often these festivals highlighting all the things that had been done to make the downtown prettier, more upscale, and more people friendly.

This particular festival offered some children’s activities including a Bouncy House. Now, I have mixed feelings about Bouncy Houses. On the one hand, it is very nice for kids to jump and play without much danger of getting hurt- when there are not many kids inside. On the other hand, multiple kids mean lots of germs and lots of chance of injury. So I somewhat reluctantly let my older kids get inside the Bouncy House.

I stood outside with the baby and tried to watch the older kids through the netting of the house. After a few minutes another child came crawling through the opening announcing to her parent that she was getting out because “some kid is in there spitting!”

I was horrified. What nastiness! What an inconsiderate child! What poor parenting must be going on for a child to decide to spit in a Bouncy House full of other children?

Loving our imperfect kids

Full of righteous indignation I leaned down to the opening of the House planning to call my children out. Of course I planned on saying (rather loudly), “I am so sorry we have to leave but it appears that some nasty child is spitting in the House.”

I leaned down, and before the words could leave my mouth, Kathryne poked her head out and said, “Hey, Mom. Charles is in here spitting!”

All my indignation fled, leaving me deflated and embarrassed. My child?!!! Surely not. I was the poor parent? My child was the inconsiderate, nasty child?

As I called my kids out and moved away from the Bouncy House, other parents glared at me. I’m sure they were thinking the same things about me that I had been thinking about them only moments before.

I faced my son and took a deep breath. Fortunately I didn’t lose it and yell at him. (Even though I was definitely tempted!) Instead I asked (in a somewhat calm voice), “Charles, why would you spit in the Bouncy House?”

He looked up at my, seeming confused by all the commotion, and answered, “I wanted to make a puddle I could jump in.”

A puddle. To jump in. He wasn’t an evil, nasty child. I wasn’t a poor, lazy parent. He was a kid. An ordinary, normal, curious kid who wanted to jump in a puddle. He wasn’t perfect. I certainly wasn’t perfect. But he was just a normal, little kid.

I learned quite a bit on that day at the festival. I learned that there are no perfect kids. There are no perfect parents. And I learned that I need to give grace- even when I feel as if I want to judge another parent for her child’s behavior. Because sometimes she doesn’t have a bad kid. Sometimes she just has a kid who wants to jump in puddles.

This post was originally published as part of the Hearts at Home Blog Hop. It’s also been published in the book No More Perfect Kids by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch, PhD.

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