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with Todd Wilson
Being an Imperfect Example
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ears ago, when I was a younger dad, I was running errands with a couple of my children. I had to stop at a trophy shop to check on some ribbons that we were having made for an event at the church where I was pastoring. I remember being tired (which I often was in those days) and not feeling my cheerful self.

It was during the school day, and at some point the lady behind the counter asked, “So is there a school break today?” It was obvious that she was eyeing my children who should have been in school.

“No,” I said with a sigh, “we homeschool our kids, so we can run errands when we need to.”

I hoped that I had dodged the bullet and my answer would suffice, but it didn‘t. “Oh, I don’t know anyone who homeschools,“ she said wistfully, “but I always thought that it would be a nice thing to do.”

Like I said at first, I was tired from wrangling my always busy kids… or maybe I was just feeling blah, but for whatever reason, I responded (trying at a failed attempt to be funny) by saying, “Yeah, well my wife says our kids just pick up our bad habits more quickly.”

Close-up digital photograph portrait view of a blue/gold ribbon that has an honor badge on it that reads Imperfect Parent AWARD with decorative leave plants around it plus five stars

Without a moment’s hesitation, as though she had been expecting me to say something like that… or because maybe God was using her to encourage my young dad heart, she said, “Well, at least they’re YOUR bad habits and not everyone else’s.”

I was stunned and have shared that encounter many times since… including right now. The trophy-counter-lady was right. At least they’re OUR bad habits. They’re the habits we’re aware of and are trying to change and correct. Had we sent them away to a building full of kids and teachers, we’d have exposed them to LOTS of their bad habits—unknown, diverse, ungodly habits. And that’s even worse.

Mom, you may be worried about passing your bad habits on to your children. Maybe you’re no fun, lazy, not good at math, too strict, competitive, or a dozen other things you don’t want them to pick up from you. But here’s the deal: God gave your children you to be their mom, with all your bad habits and baggage.

And guess what? You’re going to pass some of it on to your children who will pass it on to their children. And that’s okay. God could have erased all of yours and then you certainly wouldn’t need Him in your life.

But the good news is that baggage, bad habits, and imperfection are just part of being a parent and homeschool mom.

There is a passage in the Bible that always troubled me. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Every time I’d read that or hear a sermon on it, I’d feel guilty and think, “How could I ever say that?” My example is lousy. Usually, I want to say to my kids, “Don’t follow my example… be better than me.” All the time knowing that they WILL follow my example and be a whole lot like me!

But then one day as I was reading Romans 7, it hit me; Paul is just like me. He says it in a roundabout way several times: All the good things I want to do, I don’t do, and all the bad things I want to avoid, I do. I know we think Paul’s struggles can’t be as bad as ours, but they were! That’s why he needed a Savior. That’s why we need a Savior. That’s why our children need a Savior! Because no one is perfect.

Our children don’t need perfect parents or for us to be perfect homeschoolers. Praise the Lord for that.

I remember one time at a homeschool convention when a frustrated dad asked me, “So, what makes a good dad?” I know he wanted answers, a list of to-dos, or a pamphlet of ten steps. But I didn’t have any of those. Actually, I couldn’t give him an answer because I don’t like easy answers to complex questions, so I left him hanging while I pondered his question for a couple of months.

“So my imperfect fellow mom or dad, feel confident in the fact that God knew your children needed you with all your shortcomings, baggage, and failures.”

Close-up landscape view of five golden shiny circular cup shape champion trophies all situated next to each other with a white faded gradient background hovering over them

I searched and thought and then the realization gently dawned on me: what makes a good dad or a good mom is one who just keeps trying. They fail, blow it, ask forgiveness, trust God, and keep trying. They show up each day giving their children an example to follow, not of a perfect parent who responds correctly all the time, but of one who doesn’t always respond correctly. Parents who humble themselves and ask to be forgiven… BUT never give up and just keep trying.

So my imperfect fellow mom or dad, feel confident in the fact that God knew your children needed you with all your shortcomings, baggage, and failures. Keep working on changing and diminishing them, but know this: as you keep trying, asking forgiveness, and modeling Christian living to your children, you’re teaching them something HUGE! And one day they’ll show their kids that as well.

If I ever see that trophy-counter-lady again, I’ll thank her for setting me straight. BTW—Twenty years later, I still feel tired.

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odd Wilson, author of Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe and Help! I’m Married to a Homeschooling Mom, is a dad, writer, conference speaker, and former pastor. Todd’s humor and gut-honest realness have made him a favorite speaker at homeschool conventions across the country and a guest on Focus on the Family. Todd and his wife Debbie homeschool their eight children in northern Indiana and travel around America in the Familyman Mobile. You can visit Familyman Ministries at: www.familymanweb.com.