My husband had been hired as the pastor at a new church in Pennsylvania. We had been at there for just a few weeks when we went to the church’s Super Bowl party. One of our boys was just over two-years-old and the other was six months. Our older son was playing and running around the room, tripping over the cord that plugged the projector into the outlet.
The big game flickered and the crowd reacted, hoping they wouldn’t miss the big play. I grabbed our son’s arm and raised my voice at him, not noticing that many there were watching us instead of the game. On the way home that night I told my husband, “Well, now the entire church knows. Their new pastor’s wife isn’t perfect and neither are his kids. Think they’ll fire us already?”
I was kidding about getting fired of course, but I wasn’t kidding about the pressure I felt to be perfect. I wanted to appear perfect in front of our church. I wanted to appear perfect on our homeschooling blog. I wanted to appear perfect on Facebook.
I had always felt pressure to be perfect. My older sister has Down Syndrome, and because she wasn’t perfect, I felt more pressure to be. I wanted to get perfect grades, have perfect church attendance, and to make my parents perfectly proud. That pressure I put on myself as a child had followed me into adulthood.
But then God gave me a gift that shattered my dreams of perfection.
Our younger son was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. He wouldn’t potty train perfectly. He wouldn’t speak perfectly. He wouldn’t hold a pencil perfectly. He wouldn’t smile perfectly for blog and Facebook pictures. He wouldn’t sit next to me on the pew perfectly and listen to his daddy preach.
Everywhere we went, everything we did, people would know he wasn’t perfect. And if he wasn’t perfect, then neither was I.
Instead of feeling pressure to make him fit into the typical-kid mold, I found freedom through his imperfections.
It didn’t happen right away. But when I saw how my friends treated him like he was one of their own kids, when I saw our family rejoice with us over little accomplishments, when I saw our church become inclusive for kids with lots of different special-needs, I realized all those people loved him just the way he was. He didn’t have to live up to any standards. He didn’t have to reach every goal. And if he didn’t have to, neither did I.
James 1:17 says every good and perfect gift is from God. What I realized through my son’s diagnosis was that even autism, when seen from God’s perspective, is a good and perfect gift from Him. I was given the gift of imperfection, and was able to release the pressure I was putting on myself and on my family to live up to an impossible standard. For that gift, I’m still giving thanks.
Your Turn: What “imperfect gift” has God blessed you with?
Sandra is a pastor’s wife and mom to three boys. She and her husband recently released Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip (a Bible study for special needs parents). You can connect with her on her site sandrapeoples.com or on Facebook.
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I also have a son with a spectrum diagnosis. Even so, I still tried to live the “perfect parent” life – taking him to all the therapies that were necessary, doing all the appointments that were necessary. And then there were marriage issues (and God is at work in that in a BIG and MIGHTY way!!!). I remember I said to a friend, “Well, there ya go – all my vain attempts at perfection are *completely* gone!” Imperfect is a lot more freeing.
Yes, absolutely–imperfect is a lot more freeing! Saying a prayer for you right now. Thanks for sharing your story!
Thank you! Prayer is so vital on this journey! Blessings to you and yours!
Oh my goodness! I feel the exact same way. I believe God gave me my son with ASD to relieve me from my perfectionism instincts. Sure, I still want him to smile perfectly but I do better embrace his imperfections (most of the time). It’s difficult because I am so much like you! Crazy. I wanted to be perfect growing up – popular, smart. I didn’t have the church upbringing so not so much there, but otherwise, I wanted people to love me. And I want the same for my son(s) but I realize that certain people are going to love him and some aren’t and it’s really their loss because he’s terrific! Thank you for sharing.
Love your heart, Randi! When others are too focused on perfection, they do miss out on how fun our non-typical (and still really terrific) kids are!
It’s such a relief to see the “imperfections” in all of us as mothers and children. I don’t have any special needs family members but I do often feel the need to shield others from my sons’ spiritedness, shall we say. Thanks for your transperancy!!
Glad you were able to relate, Amber!
What a beautiful insight into parenting! I have quirky kids – they aren’t special needs per se, but they don’t always behave, react or respond the way “other” kids might. What a lovely reminder to see them as gifts that God is using to shape me even while I am shaping them into Him.
So true, Adelle! Parenting any kid will remind you often of your own imperfections and reliance on God! 🙂
Thank you for your post. I was encouraged by it.
I’m glad Ericka! Thanks for taking the time to share that!
Thank you for posting this. We just learned that our 12 yr. old has autism. It’s stretched me too, as I have a mentally retarded sister, who also has autism. I felt that same pressure to be perfect, and God is in the process of freeing me from “perfectionism” with His Grace. But it isn’t always easy! I feel i’ve found a kindred spirit in you! I SO needed the encouragement, as I am homeschooling him this year. THANKS!!!
[…] shared at The MOB Society how having a son with special needs freed her from the pressure to be the perfect parent: ”Instead of feeling pressure to make him fit into the typical-kid mold, I found freedom […]
[…] I left like I was under the microscope all the time. But then our son was diagnosed with autism and his “imperfection” freed me. Part of that freeing was to realize I was putting pressure on myself that wasn’t healthy and […]