When I was pregnant with my older daughter, I read all the parenting books. I was never all that interested in other people's kids. I didn't babysit much as a teenager, and babies really weren't my thing as a young adult. So, when I was pregnant, I read everything I could get my hands on about parenting.
When my daughter was born, she was just about the perfect baby. For the most part, she slept when she was supposed to, cried when she was hungry, wet or sick, and took a bottle well. My husband and I thought we were great parents. She's pretty much continued to follow that pattern for most of her life. She's an easy kid to parent. Oh, she has her moments, but usually a discussion and a minimal consequence will get her back on the right path.
When my older daughter was about a year and a half old, we decided this parenting thing wasn't so hard, so we'd have another child. We thought the second time around would be just like the first. God must have been laughing at us. My younger daughter is the life of the party. She's also incredibly difficult to parent. From the moment she joined the world, she's been a challenge. She didn't like to sleep. She didn't like to eat. She cried all the time. As she got older, we realized she was going to question everything -- authority, accepted fact and even herself. What worked with my older daughter didn't work with her.
We have two kids in the same family who require entirely different parenting skill sets, so I know that other families in this world have parenting challenges of their own that don't resemble mine at all. Yet, too often, I find myself quick to judge another mom or dad having a difficult day with a child. I rush to judgment instead of offering grace. Too often, we can make another parent feel horrible simply because we judge their parenting against our own.
I'm not a successful parent all the time. There are days when I have to walk away from a child before I say something I'll regret. There are days I lose my temper and do say something I regret. There are days when I handle the situation all wrong. There are days when I make both my children cry before I send them out the door to school. Those are the days I need grace -- from God, from my kids and from other parents.
We are so often too quick to judge and not quick enough to offer help. Just because another parent does things differently, doesn't make their parenting any less effective. They may be dealing with challenges that we can't even dream of. What works with your child may not work with someone else's.
Grace is a beautiful thing. It's simply offering someone something they don't deserve. Grace is offering to help when you want to walk away from a parent with a screaming child. Grace is acknowledging that a parent may be dealing with a disability or illness that you can't see. Grace is offering forgiveness instead of judgment.
So, let's be a little less quick to judge each other. Let's be a little more ready to offer a helping hand and an encouraging word. Let's offer advice to each other but be understanding when that advice doesn't produce the same results in someone else's family that it produces in our own. Let's make it our goal to stop judging the "rightness" of someone else's parenting and simply offer up grace instead.
I want to leave you, today, with the words of Paul to his friend Timothy: "The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all" (2 Timothy 4:22). Offer another parent some grace today. You never know when you might need some in return.