Parents who fail (and parents who don’t)

Parents who fail (and parents who don’t) May 9, 2014


Not a failure: “My daughter is pregnant.”

Failure: “My daughter had an abortion because she knew darn well what would happen if we found out she was pregnant.”


Not a failure: “My child is severely depressed.” “My child has debilitating anxiety.” “My child is suicidal.”

Failure: “I have no idea how to help my child, but I’ll be damned if I let someone stranger into our personal lives. Professional help is for parents who can’t hack it, and I don’t belong in a waiting room with that trash.”


Not a failure: “We are totally crashing and burning in the home school/private school/religious school/public school we thought would be so perfect for our kind of family.”

Failure: “We are totally crashing and burning, but if we quit, we’ll be failures as parents/let down the community/have to admit we’re wrong/change our lives around. We better keep going, so everyone will know we care about our kids.”


Not a failure: “I don’t understand my kid very well, and it’s hard to talk.”

Failure: “My kid has a great relationship with my husband, or with her teacher, or with her friend’s mom. I can’t allow this. I’m the mom.”


Not a failure: “My kid is screwing up in exactly the same ways I did or do.”

Failure: “Boy, does this look familiar, and boy does it make me feel bad. I’ll punish her double, one for each of us.”


Not a failure: “Despite our best efforts to raise him right, my kid exercised his free will and is now a druggie, an alcoholic, a criminal.”

Failure: “His name is forbidden in my home.”


Not a failure:  “We are too broke to give our kids everything their friends have.”

Failure: “I must do everything possible to get more money, so we can be happy.”


Not a failure: “My child is gay.”

Failure: “I refuse to have gay children, so either the kid or the gayness has got to go.”


Not a failure: “My child has left the Church.”

Failure: “I refuse to speak to my child who has left the Church.  How could he betray Me this way?”


Not a failure: “I just said exactly the wrong thing to my kid.”

Failure: “We must never speak of this again.”


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  • Kate Cousino

    *clap* *clap* *clap*

  • Anne


  • Betsy Fenton Archibald

    YES. This. All of it. …and to add to the Depression Failure: “We can’t allow our child to get counseling or go on meds because people like us don’t have mental health issues.”

    • Oh, man, yes. “It’s really just a matter of not (pick one): being virtuous enough, praying well, frequenting the sacraments, being more selective in the movies you watch/books you read/company you keep.” I.e. the truly good Catholics just don’t have mental health problems.

      • tt

        Last year, when I was hitting rock bottom due to a series of crises (just one of which would derail a normal person for awhile), I got a letter from a “friend” that said everything in your comment and more. What is wrong with people?

  • Amy Brents

    Love this. Thank you.

  • Many of your failures and not failures can be remedied by actually talking to your kids.

    • LiveOaksandSpanishMoss

      But… sometimes not. Sometimes terrible parents (and by terrible I mean beating their kids and doing cocaine in the living room) have kids who manage to claw their way out and become happy, healthy adults. Sometimes wonderful parents have kids who turn out to be sociopaths. Of course, parents should listen to their kids, absolutely. But unfortunately it’s not that simple…. No amount of listening on my parents’ part would have deferred my genetic pre-disposition to clinical depression, for instance.

      • tt

        This. My husband has wonderful Catholic parents. And he is a credit to them in so many ways. And his sister, not a full three years older, is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, convinced rules and laws simply do not apply to her, is promiscuous, greedy, materialistic and has denounced the Church. Parents can do everything right and a child can still go down the wrong path. Free will, anyone?

  • DeirdreMundy

    I wonder if having more kids makes you less likely to worry about failure? Because at this point, I have 6 data points which suggest that who my children are has ALMOST NOTHING to do with anything I have said or done. I mean, I can teach them skills like ‘We don’t punch other people in the stomach,’ but the fact that one of my kids is a puncher, one is a crier, and one just assumes that if you’re irritating or mean it’s because you’re defective and should be ignored? Well… they sort of came out that way….

    • I love that “don’t punch other people in the stomach” is a skill. :>

  • Barbara Fryman

    Beautiful. Our kids are not computers where, if we press all the right buttons, will grow up to be good people. Perhaps this is why I have such devotion to my childrens’ gaurdian angels.

  • Guest

    Can this be printed and given in goodie bags to new parents?

    • HenryBowers

      Some really old parents could use it, too.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        Anyone with a child in middle school, certainly.

  • Joseph Nelson


  • Brilliant.

  • So true. It’s ultimately a matter of “love” = “willing the good of the other” and death to self, isn’t it?

  • anna lisa

    Simcha, you da best.

  • Brandy Miller

    If perfect parenting were a recipe for perfect kids, you wouldn’t have needed Christ at all because Adam and Eve wouldn’t have eaten the fruit.

  • Bonnie

    Beautiful. When I posted a few times about my adult daughter’s debilitating battle with depression, I did have people ask, “is it OKAY to talk about it” heck, at our house we joke about it constantly…she says it’s been the best medicine.

  • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer


  • Andrea

    Why are you always awesome?

  • ModerateMom17

    I’m grateful you wrote this. I wish people didn’t also seem to think that when you have problems with your kids, it’s contagious. There seems to be a huge fear of associating with families where the kids are going through stuff. My young teen son is right now going through some really hard times with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and if I divulge that to anyone you can see by the looks on their faces that they just want to run away.

  • Danielle

    Yes. Being truly loving and talking to your kids can cover a multitude of mistakes, I think. Sometimes I feel like I’ve screwed up royally, but my child seems to be turning out well anyway… I’m sure it has more to do with grace and genetic blessings than anything I’ve done.

  • Sarah Webber

    Could you please add “The fact I have special needs kids does not constitute a moral failing on my part, nor does it mean I am a bad parent.” I am so tired of all the strange looks people give me. Not, thankfully, at church.