Avoiding the Mistakes of my Parents

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“Ready for bed, darling?” I call out to my daughter. With my wife out of town, it’s just me and my girl tonight. We’ve already hung out most of the day, watched some shows, and enjoyed dinner with my friend, now ready to finish out the day.

My daughter responds with a sleepy sigh.

You’re definitely ready for bed, I think to myself as she’s practically asleep in my arms. I hate waking her too much, so I pick her up and take her to her bedroom. As I lay her down, I whisper my usual prayer over her.

My prayer isn’t long. It’s nothing special, in all honesty. I didn’t pull it from a special book of prayer or anything. The prayer combines a line from Scripture and my own wish.

As I lay my little girl down and watch her eyes seal shut, I whisper over her, “The Lord bless you and keep you and give you peace. I pray God leads you always. Sleep well, my darling. I love you.”

I walk out of the room, gingerly shutting the door behind me. Though I’ve already done this who knows how many times, my mind still ponders this amazement.

I have a child. God actually gave me a life for whom I am responsible.

My daughter learns everything from me. Everything about life, about who she is, about this world — all of it starts with Lisa and me. What’s more: everything my little girl will know about God starts with me.

It honestly scares me at times.

I know the mistakes of a parent can have incredibly long-lasting ramifications on a child’s life. I still struggle to this day due to things my parents did or said, intentionally and unintentionally.

Honestly, I know my daughter will carry my mistakes with her for the rest of her life. Things I’m not even aware of that I’m already doing will have a negative impact on her; it kills me inside to know this.

My heart is ripped apart over the thought that I will, at some point, fail my daughter and cause her to struggle.

I am also thankful that God, her perfect Father, will never fail her. My one hope and relief is that Jesus will always be there for my little girl in ways I can never possibly be.

This is my comfort: that my daughter has a better Father than me watching over her and caring for her.

Being a father, it’s made me realize even more so my desperate need for a Savior. It’s also showed me the great love that God has for His children. I love my girl so much that I would do absolutely anything to protect, teach, and guard her.

But I know I will fall short all too often.

That’s why I pray for the Lord to bless her, keep her, and give her peace. Three things I know I can never give her all the time. And I know that, if I make it my one goal to remind my girl of this every day I can, she will come to know Christ as her Savior.

All this floods my mind as I walk away from my daughter’s bedroom. I return to the living room and plop down next to my friend who is also lost in thought. “Everything all right, man?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply. “Everything is good, man!”

I have a daughter, I think to myself. One of the greatest symbols of God’s grace I could have ever imagined.

Do you ever play back mistakes from your parents as you consider your present-day emotional and sexual struggles? Are you a parent who struggles with day-to-day decisions for your children?

* Photo courtesy ivaman, Creative Commons.

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  • I came from a broken home: there’s strike one. My father had affairs outside of marriage: there’s strike two. My mother never forgave him: there’s strike three. I lived with my mother and we were not raised in a Christian home. She was neglectful and did not teach me most of the things I would need in life (not even laundry; I had to wash clothes in the bathtub just to have something to wear to school). My only exposure to God was through my father. He had remarried and his wife was helping him with the trauma of Vietnam and alcoholism. Still though, she had a rivalry between my mother and the two HATED each other and I was caught in the middle of their bickering. Now obviously, my stepmother would have been the better parent (my mother had no business raising children0, but I loved her. Then my best friend killed himself.

    My stepmother could only offer religious platitudes of him burning in hell for killing himself; and my mother was too stoned at the time to get me the counseling I needed. I was left alone, depressed and suicidal. Then they were all shocked that I flunked everything and had forged my mother’s signature on my report cards. It was all suddenly my fault, even though I was only fourteen.

    When I was finally blessed with a family of my own, I deliberately kept the kids at arms length from my father and my mother, trying my best to undo many of the things that had been done to me through neglect and abuse (I have only listed the finer points of my life, as it is much worse than is described). When something arised that I didn’t know how to deal with I sought advice rather than assuming I knew everything. My wife and I never split up and have been together ninteen years. I could not do this without her. The twins graduated last Saturday with honors, and my youngest son has been inducted into the National Honor Society.

    I wonder what I could have done if somebody had thought about me and not themselves. I certainly would not be working in a television station as a master control operator (I push buttons).

    • Dean Samuels

      Wow, thank you for sharing so much Bradley. I am so sorry for the ways your parents failed you but I am thankful you have a family now that can share such great victories with you.

  • C. Marque

    I love the picture of you praying over her!

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you Marque! It’s something I hope I never stop doing.

  • Matt ‘Ashįįhí

    Dude, I think you stole one of my dreams/visions if I would ever get married and have a child. What you’ve been doing right now is probably the exact response I would have if I ever have a little boy or girl in my life. Thank you for this post.

    • Dean Samuels

      You’re welcome Matt! I pray God brings alongside this blessing for you in your future- it truly is amazing. And I know you will be a loving and doting father.

  • mike

    A truly inspiring post Dean. Thanks for that reminder of “God actually gave me a life”!
    This speaks to me not only of your beautiful little girl, but also of the “life to the full” God has given you. It also is a contrast to what is not found in the gay world but could be — heterosexual marriage and family with God’s help.
    It seems from many blogs I read that singleness and celibacy is the only option for Christian sga’d guys. Yet, it is not. Thanks for this encouragement that indeed in God there is hope that “everything is good, man” He gives good gifts.

    • Dean Samuels

      The Bible says that all good and perfect gifts come from God. My daughter is a strong reminder of that. I’m thankful my post was able to encourage you!

  • Christian

    I’m a new father, I can’t stand the thought that I’ll make mistakes. I want to be the best father in the world. But I’m not. How thankful I am for a perfect heavenly father.

    • mike

      When i brought my baby girl home and put her in her crib I was scared. What did I know about being a father? Zilch! My own father was emotionally absent, broken, and drank to deal with life. Should I run out and buy all the father books? Take courses quickly to bring me up to speed? Useful yes, but in those moments of panic God said: “you will be a father to her like I have been to you”. Tears poured out because I knew, I knew what a perfect father He was/is to me. I knew about His mercy, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness, compassion, patience, and loving tender discipline. I knew He would help me.

    • Dean Samuels

      I know what you mean, Christian. Mistakes will happen though- remember to always point your little one back to Christ when you make those mistakes. You can always be an example of how to fall before Christ in worship.

  • Alan Gingery

    There are no perfect parents except God the Father. And He knows we will make mistakes, get things wrong, screw up, make bad decisions as parents. But we will also get things right, do it well, make good decisions, love our kids till they know it. With God’s wisdom, strength, love, mercy, fairness, that come from walking daily with him, we will do it right more than we do it wrong. And if our kids know we love Jesus, that is probably the most precious gift we give them. I love what you wrote and your prayer. You are a great dad, mistakes and successes!

    My own parents got somethings right and somethings wrong. Yes, sometimes they did things or didn’t do things that affected my SSA, BUT I KNOW THAT THEY LOVED ❤️ ME! I don’t blame them. They were humans struggling with their own problems and trials. I wish that had been perfect parents…but in reality, their imperfections drove me closer to my Heavenly Father. God can work all things to my good (Romans 8:28) and that includes my SSA. He is helping me to grow and love ❤️ others in a better way through my struggles. And He is healing a lot of my past. Forgiveness is a big part of that. I forgive my parents for not being perfect and not always being there for me when I needed them…but I rejoice in the love they have for me and the many ways that they were there for me.

  • Jim Roberts

    Dean,
    I always relate to your posts and especially to this one. Thank yo for being the father your daughter needs and God bless you!

    I too took the plunge into marriage and parenting 25 years ago. Our “kids” are 19 and 23, and yes there is great joy and anxiety as they “leave the nest.”

    I had a childhood eerily similar to Bradley’s (thank you for sharing that) and made it my life’s mission to “do it right.” Now i can see that the bulk of my mistakes were in my passivity and not protecting them enough from my wife’s own emotional issues. Having said that, their childhood experience was on another dimension than mine and many kids.

    Both are super achievers – our son just got accepted into a doctoral program at Ohio State, and our daughter a full ride scholarship at an east coast university. They both have good hearts but see the world in much different ways than I. Both are scary liberal (which i know most young people are – like i was) but also have walked away from our church.

    Our daughter has sadly announced that she is a lesbian. This has been in discussion for a couple years with us encouraging her to not make any “identity decisions ” until she is out of college. I am full of “I pourly represented what men are” in my passivity , yet i know i supported her as best I could. She sees me as being “homophobic”, and I have been torn about sharing my SSA past. Doing that is at huge risk because I would first have to tell my wife. I feel God is putting the squeeze on me to finally fully disclose and I hate it. I’ve been withdrawing emotionally and spiritually.

    So parenting is indeed the toughest job, but I have no regrets for making that decision.