Dave and Ann Wilson: It's what every parent fears – I've messed up my kids. Here's what happened to us

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This parenting thing can be tough at times. We carry around a burden of not doing it right and imagining our kids sitting on a counselor’s couch talking about how screwed up their parents were.  

Trust me, we are not perfect parents, and neither are you. And believe it or not, your imperfect parenting will not destroy your kids. And you don’t need to carry around a backpack of guilt any longer.  

My wife Ann knows that backpack well. I’ll let her explain… 

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Guilt had become my ever-present luggage – a weight I never welcomed and never anticipated would so severely hinder my movements as a mom. 

But it did … especially on this day. 

The day was typical, starting off with high hopes and enthusiasm. I was ready to tackle whatever lay ahead. Bring it on world – I’m ready to rumble! 

Dave had a busy day ahead of him too, so he was already off to work before any of us had awakened. Breakfast eaten, kitchen cleaned, lunches packed, all three boys in the car, and we were off to school. I patted myself on the back, feeling accomplished and confident. 

By dinner time I was thinking, Heck, I’ve finally got this mom thing down, as I congratulated myself on the high quality of my mothering skills.  

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Job wrapped up for the day. Grocery shopping accomplished. Calls made. Lists checked off. Kids home from school. Dinner made. Children fed. All the boxes checked. 

Hmm, where is Dave? I thought he’d be home by now.  

Horseplay and roughhousing had begun to ramp up in the family room. It was getting loud. This was the part of the day when frenzy and craziness would often envelope the house in a crescendo that was sure to end with someone getting hurt and tears … 

The kids sometimes cried, too. 

“CJ, we need to practice your spelling words for your test tomorrow. Let’s go to the kitchen to do it away from the distractions.” 

For the next 30 minutes, CJ and I went over each word with painstaking slowness. He was distracted by everything, while I was distracted by Dave’s absence. Officially, I was starting to get mad. He should have been home hours ago. Why hasn’t he called? Why am I doing this all by myself yet again? 

Dave and Ann Wilson, authors, "No Perfect Parents"

Dave and Ann Wilson, authors, “No Perfect Parents”

CJ was trying to knock the saltshaker over with the edge of his eraser. We had been on the same dumb spelling word for 15 minutes. This was not going well. 

Where is Dave? 

You are not perfect parents and no one expects you to be … especially your kids.

CJ was unfocused, so I tried to stay focused on the task at hand. “CJ, come on. Pay attention! Let’s get this word right this time. How do you spell _______?” 

Just as the question had left my lips, his eraser achieved success and the saltshaker tipped over, spilling salt all over the table. That’s it! The screaming and salting and waiting and trying – it was suddenly all too much. 

“Ohhhh myyyy goshhhhhh!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. 

Without thinking, I swung my leg back and kicked the wall as if I was David Beckham kicking the winning goal for the Olympic gold. The impact was surprisingly fierce as my little 5-foot-1, 115-pound frame gave it everything I had. 

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My three suddenly attentive fans ran to where I was in the kitchen, watching my every move as I awkwardly tried to unhinge my foot from the broken array of drywall that had entrapped it in shame.  

Instantly guilt gripped me. 

What kind of mom are you? What kind of mom could lose her temper like that? What will your kids remember about you? What will this do to mess up your kids? You are a failure! 

I heard it over and over in my head. The backpack I thought I had finally mastered was suddenly full of bricks again, heavier than ever. 

I wondered what I would tell Dave when he walked in the door. My mind was racing when a brilliant thought surged through the middle of the pack. I sprinted up the stairs two at a time, racing into my closet, eyes searching for the box of leftover wallpaper. Yes!  

Whipping the scissors out of the kitchen drawer, I commanded my now coconspirators to step aside as I began to cover up the crime scene before “Pastor Dave” walked in the door. This was working perfectly! No one would ever know.  

As I was contemplating my next move in the whole diabolical coverup, the sound of the garage door suddenly interrupted my thought patterns, and in came Dave like “Dad of the Year.” 

All three boys rushed to him with glee. “Dad, you won’t believe what happened tonight! Mom is wayyyyy stronger than we thought!” 

“What do you mean?” Dave looked questionably at me, innocent curiosity twinkling in his eyes. I could feel my face redden with shame. 

Then like a perfectly trained musical trio, all three boys blurted out the truth in simultaneous, harmonious merriment: “Mom kicked a hole in the wall!”  

Dave here again … that’s quite a story, right? That hole is still there in that wall, all covered up of course, as a reminder of how real parenting can get. Ann laid in bed that night beating herself up with “mom guilt” about how she had failed. I tried to convince her that it was no big deal, but she carried that shame for quite some time.  

And I carried the guilt of not being home enough. I missed way too many “hole in the wall” moments because I chose my career over my family. I sure wish I could get a do over on that.  

The truth is we all fail at times and our failures are not final. The boys actually laugh about that moment now and it has become a memoir to just how strong mom is.  

If I could say one thing to moms and dads it would be to quit beating yourself up. You are not perfect parents and no one expects you to be … especially your kids.

When you blow it, go back to your kids and apologize (there’s nothing better than a parent who owns their mistakes).  

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Our kids have forgiven us and I am betting that your kids will forgive you too. Grace is a wonderful and powerful thing. God gives it to imperfect parents and kids do too.  

And a little wallpaper helps as well! 

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