If your experience matches mine, every parent you've ever met thinks they did a good (or great) job with their children. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary - i.e. the legions of walking wounded - if we are to believe what others claim, then average, below average, or failing parents do not exist. To some parents, even suggesting we've all made mistakes with our children - sometimes serious ones - is insulting or worse.
My only child was fourteen when I read Mitch Albom's bestseller The Five People You Meet in Heaven soon after its publication in 2003. How am I so sure about when I read it? Because finishing that slim volume marked a clear end in a battle I'd waged with myself from the time my beloved daughter was born. Imbedded in Albom's sentimental tale is an elegant metaphor about damage all parents do - whether they admit it or not - to children. A parent can fog their children's glass, break that glass, shatter that glass; no child escapes unscathed. Before reading Albom's formulation, I'd struggled almost daily with mistakes already made. That metaphor released me. Almost immediately, I became less concerned about mistakes of the past and envisioned a way to forgive myself for future mistakes I would surely make. It's hard to overstate how liberating that was for me.
I've surely fogged my daughter's glass more times than I can count. But on every Father's Day since 2003, it's been easier for me to let go of how great, good, average or worse a parent I've been. And that's because I am certain my daughter's glass has never been broken or shattered via my missteps. Any damage I've done can be more easily mitigated than damage inflicted via a break or a shattering. She can take a rag and wipe that fog away - including the thicker parts of it - even when it takes effort to do so. I've done right by her, just as my Father did by me. I can be proud of that.