By Sarah Anderson

More often than I’d like, I feel like a complete parenting failure. The other night while my three year old was running around, I heard him yell to no one in particular, “You guys are stressing me out!” It was not my proudest mom moment. He wasn’t really stressed out. He had just heard me say it enough, that he learned to repeat it himself. It was like a blow to the gut—a revealing reflection of the messages I had unintentionally been sending. Nights like that one remind me that as hard as I am trying to mask my shortcomings, those pesky faults are more evident than I thought.

I know what I am supposed to do. I know the respectable response and the tempered reaction in most situations. But I don’t always do it. In fact I consistently don’t do it enough that my kids are picking up on the “me” I thought I was doing a fairly good job reforming—or at least keeping under wraps. It’s humbling. It’s disheartening. It’s discouraging when I consider the task given to raise these little ones.

The story of freed slaves from the book of Exodus features some other flawed parents. They were a people called out by Moses and given a set of commandments. But they had a tendency to complain. Loudly. Consistently. They weren’t setting prime examples for the generation behind them. And to their whining and protesting, God makes Himself heard. To the former slaves, He says, “You won’t ever see the land I promised would be yours. You won’t ever know true freedom. Your kids will see it, but you won’t.”

Yet, when God gave Moses the commandments, He included this one: honor your father and mother—including the ones who got it so wrong.

Which makes me wonder. How did the younger generation of slaves honor their obstinate and disobedient elders? What interactions took place in the years between when the parents faced the repercussions of their disobedience and when the kids took the land their parents weren’t allowed to enter? I don’t know if this is true, but I wonder if there was some confession along the way. Admittance. Acknowledgement. I wonder if there were a lot of conversations that started with, “We got it wrong, but you don’t have to.” Whatever transpired in those years of wandering affected the children of faulty parents. In a good way. They learned something. And then they corrected their course. They took the land their parents missed.

Owning up to where I got it wrong, allowing my kids glimpses into my work in progress, means I can get something right.

In other words, if I want to give my kids something to honor, I don’t need to become a perfect parent but a repentant one.

If my son bears the baggage I haven’t successfully dealt with myself—speaking the language I often make a script for my life—all is not lost. There is still hope if I can assure him there is a better way to live. He may not see perfection, but he can catch a glimpse of repentance and learn from my mistakes.

Our kids may not honor us because of how often we get it right. But what if they honored us because of how often we admit we get it wrong?

What if we parented as though our legacy lasts longer than we do—and consists of more than just our successes, but the posture of hearts?

And who knows, if we learn to do this, we may find freedom—our kids may find freedom—from the burden of perfection none of us were ever meant to bear. And our kids can engage a future we could have only dreamed for ourselves.

Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace.