Marriage & Family Life: God's love covers a multitude of parenting sins

by Adam Storey | March 17, 2021

Kara Storey

By Kara Storey

I was having one of those “days” as a parent recently. The kids were bouncing off the walls and arguing non-stop with each other. My toddler was extra clingy and whiny due to cutting her molars. Another child was grumpy at prayer time stating, “Playing with Legos is more fun!” and “I don’t want to talk to Jesus!”

I lost my cool more than once. I harshly scolded and gave steep consequences. I fretted over my child’s faith, wondering if that child had any faith at all. To make it worse, I had deep self-loathing for my negative responses, recognizing it only added to the dysfunction. The interior self-flagellation was intense: No one else’s kids act this way! All my friends’ kids love Mass and prayer! Look at all the mistakes I’ve made! I’ve doomed my relationships with my kids! I am such a bad mom! 

After supper that evening, my husband, Adam, encouraged me to take 10 minutes alone. So I barricaded myself in a back bedroom and reflected on what sent the day into a tailspin.

I realized that in the preceding days I had been placing unrealistic expectations on my kids, overanalyzing and critiquing even the smallest of their missteps. These expectations stemmed from the fact that because Adam and I, as Catholics, intentionally raise our children differently, I had unknowingly placed extra pressure on myself to “make sure my kids turn out holy!” I bought into the lie that how my kids will turn out is a direct reflection of my mothering. Yes, Satan had weaseled his way into my heart via perfectionism and fear, and I let my anxiety win.

But as I look around lately, it seems like a lot of us are fearful and anxious. We recognize that raising children in the faith is a monumental task. Souls are at stake. Eternal happiness is on the line. As parents, we try to control every aspect of their spiritual and personal formation. We are tempted to believe that if we pray hard enough, protect them enough and do everything just “right” we’ll be guaranteed faithful and holy adult children. 

But in that back bedroom that night, Jesus reminded me he makes saints, not me. And so after a long and wretched day, I surrendered my motherhood to Christ. My heart cried out, “Lord, I have no clue what I’m doing! Help me!” And you know what? The Father met me in my brokenness. As I laid bare my weakness and insecurities, he gave me peace in all the unknowns: I don’t know how my experiment in parenting will turn out. I don’t know if my kids will be kind and generous adults. I don’t know if they will live virtuous lives or remain devout Catholics, let alone become saints. 

But my Father also reminded me of all the things I do know, such as how he loves my children more than I do. I know he has a perfect and unique plan for each one of them. I know that he will forgive them in reconciliation and nourish them in the Eucharist. I know that as the “Hound of Heaven,” he will pursue them down whatever dark and winding paths they may choose to take. I know that at some point, my kids will have to make their faith their own, and that usually comes by way of trials and doubts. I know that even if my kids turn their back on the Church, God will never turn his back on them. I know that he gives me the grace I need to be their mom. I know I don’t have to be the perfect mother because regardless of all the mistakes I make, God’s love (and a good counselor) will cover a multitude of my sins. 

Internalizing these truths has brought me numerous experiences of interior freedom. I haven’t been perfect, but that isn’t what God, or my kids, need from me. Instead, they need me to model a prayerful life, one that surrenders control and continually seeks wisdom from the Holy Spirit and the Church. My kids need me to be a fountain of mercy and love, lavishing generosity and forgiveness upon their fragile hearts. And when the hard days come, which they will, I will take comfort knowing tomorrow is a new day. As it says in the Rule of St. Benedict, “Always we begin again.”

Adam Storey

Adam Storey leads the Marriage Ministry Department for the Diocese of Des Moines, which seeks to work with parishes and couples, walking with all families in all their stages, in their joys and sorrows, their celebrations and challenges.