Dave’s Parenting Mistakes
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Dave Wilson, co-host of FamilyLife Today, reveals some of his greatest parenting mistakes and shares how he experienced God’s grace in the midst of them.
Dave’s Parenting Mistakes
Dave: Okay, I have a news flash for you.
Ann: Oh, okay!
Dave: I don’t think it’s really anything you don’t know, but I just thought I’d update you and let you know I was not a perfect dad.
Ann: What?! [Laughter]
Dave: I mean, yes; and you were not—
Ann: What?! I was not a perfect mom.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Yes, I mean, it sounds obvious; but we wrote a book called No Perfect Parents. I tend to think that they read that title and they think, “Yes, you wrote a book called No Perfect Parents; but you guys are authors, and you host FamilyLife Today, so you were much better than the average parent.”
Ann: Hopefully listeners have discovered that: “Oh, the Wilsons really are not perfect.” We really wanted to share with you some of the things that we put in the book, actually parenting mistakes that we made. We wanted to be really honest with you and show you what this looked like, not just to beat ourselves up, but hoping that you’ll see that there are no perfect parents—that we’re right there with you—but we’re also hoping that you’ll learn from us, maybe, what not to do.
Dave: Yes; I was going to say today’s exciting, but I don’t know if I’m excited to share our mistakes. But there’s nobody in the studio—it’s just you and I—talking about
Chapter 11 in the book, which we titled “My Top Five Parenting Mistakes.”
Ann: —which you wrote. Way to go!
Dave: Yes, I wrote my top five; it could have been my top fifty. There weren’t enough pages to fill it, because there were a lot more than five.
Ann: By the time I was ready to write mine, they’re like, “Oh, too many pages! You guys can’t include yours.”
Dave: Yes, we’re going to hear yours in a bit.
Ann: I probably have 500.
Dave: Today, let’s talk about a few of the mistakes I made.
Ann: Well, before Dave even gets there, maybe some of you have been struggling, feeling like, “Oh, I’m failing. I need help with my two-year-old.” You have so many questions. We want to help you with that. You can always go to— FamilyLife.com/ParentsAsk—ask your questions. Tell us the things you feel, like, “Oh, I’m struggling with this…” Maybe you need answers and help, because we want to help you; so go to FamilyLife.com/ParentsAsk.
Dave: Let’s start here. When I opened this chapter, I wanted to make the point, that I think we all need to hear, is that: “Often, we do not see our mistakes. We don’t even know they’re happening or real.”
One of the things that I was alerted to with this was: you used to tell me, early in our marriage, and even early in our parenting years, that I would be harsh with my words.
Ann: Oh, yes! We would go through this—it was quite a while—and I was so frustrated. I told you: “You’re so harsh with me! Your tone makes me feel like you hate me, or I’m stupid; and you roll your eyes.” The non-verbals were destroying me, and I would say that to you.
Dave: I couldn’t see it. I was like, “You’re crazy!” I would say it like that—harsh, roll the eyes, a flippant little comment—walk out of the room, like, “I’m not like that at all.” Obviously, if there was a mirror, you could see it; but I couldn’t see it.
Ann: Do you remember I said to you, “I am going to record it. I am going to secretly record you.” You’re like: “Whatever! Even if you recorded me, you would see that I’m fine. You’re just overly sensitive.”
Dave: Tell them what happened.
Ann: So we go to visit my parents, and all our kids were little. My dad had a VCR camera, which was new at the time.
Dave: VCR; it was the kind you carried around on a backpack.
Ann: Yes; so we were recording the boys; it was really fun. We didn’t know it at the time, but Dave didn’t turn off the camera. So later that night, we’re like, “Hey, everybody,”—all my brothers were there, my sister, my parents—“come in and watch this video,” we made of all the grandkids.
We’re watching it; and everybody’s like, “Oh, this is so cute!” But then, when you think the camera’s going to stop—you can tell the camera’s now pointing to the ground, because it’s still going—
Dave: But the audio picked up our little fight we got into when the kids and the parents left the room. The camera was still going; and on that audio, you can hear my tone of voice. You can’t see me rolling my eyes; but it’s obvious that I think I’m the world’s smartest man, and you’re the dumbest wife. I mean, it’s just arrogant, and flippant, and harsh. It’s all the things you’ve been trying to tell me that I denied I ever do.
Ann: And you guys, he was so embarrassed.
Dave: Well, your whole family’s watching and listening to this—and there it is—they look over at me, like, “What a jerk!”
Ann: I’m thinking, “Thank You, Jesus!” because I had been praying, “Lord, I don’t know what to do. He doesn’t hear me; this is really hurting me.” And then that happened; and I’m like, “Jesus heard my prayer.”
Dave: And I’ve been perfect ever since!
Ann: You have.
Dave: No; but we’re telling the story because, that day, I could see what you’d been telling me. I’d been making these mistakes and doing this for years, and denying it, because I couldn’t see it.
Ann: I will say, you are not like that anymore; in terms of, when people confront you, and share truth with you—when I do that—you’re really open to it, where you didn’t used to be open to it.
Dave: Yes; I do think one of the gifts God’s given us—and it’s true in marriage and it’s true in friendships—is He gives us people that can be a mirror to us. Your spouse is a mirror; I began to realize that’s a gift from God. Your spouse can sharpen you to become like Jesus—that’s our ultimate goal—I want to be like Christ. I won’t ultimately be there until I’m standing before Him in heaven; but God gives you a spouse to call out things—hopefully, speak life—but at times, they’ll go, “Hey, I don’t know if you know this; but you’re really harsh with your words.”
We can get defensive or we can go: “Wow, I think iron is sharpening iron right now. God wants to use her”—or him—“in my life to make me more like Him.” If you receive it as a gift—we literally call it a gift in our home: “It’s a gift,”—if you receive it that way, it can make you better.
Ann: The secret is how you relay that truth and that gift.
Dave: Yes; and all that to say—these mistakes we’re going to share very quickly—and I encourage you to get the book and read them yourself, and then have a conversation about them. I often didn’t see these mistakes when I was living these mistakes. Now, looking back, it’s like, “Wow, I wish I wouldn’t have done this…” I hope these can help you.
The first one I wrote it this way: “Mistake #1: I left my soul at the office.” Basically, that was just how I was—so driven as a pastor, as a chaplain of an NFL team, to be successful in my work—and often, when I got home, I didn’t have any energy. I mean, I had energy; I just didn’t bring it home like I brought it to the office, or to preaching, or to leading a Bible study with the Lions players. I came home tired and sort of felt entitled to rest. I sort of walked in the door, like, “This is Ann’s job; the kids are Ann’s job. She doesn’t have half the job that I have, because my job is so much harder than hers.” [Laughter]
I would walk in the door, and I felt like—I look back—and I left my soul/all my energy went to the church, and I didn’t bring as much to my home.
Ann: It was interesting, too—because I was so frustrated because, as a mom with three little boys, I was tired—it’s exhausting. I would watch Dave—and I’m sure some listeners are thinking, “Yes, I relate to this,” especially wives—I would see you with your friends, and coworkers, and even in your job; you were amazing—like a dynamic leader, communicator, you’re fun and funny—then you’d come home, and you’d be super quiet. You’d sit on the couch or watch TV; and I was like, “I want that guy/that fun, dynamic leader to be engaging with our kids.”
Dave: In some ways, I think we get applauded for what we do at the workplace sometimes; we’re cheered. I also felt like I knew what to do there—I went to school for this; I’ve trained in this; people tell me I’m good at this—I come home, and I often feel inadequate. Sometimes, you were telling me I wasn’t very good at it. [Laughter]
All of those are excuses, because the truth is—and what I want listeners to hear is—“Your job as a mom/your job as a dad, as a wife/as a husband—there’s no more important job than that.”
I’m driving/on my drive home, I learned a little rhythm that I got into, where I would have this mailbox on the way home—I didn’t go over to the mailbox—but I’d look at it; and I’d visually, with my mind, open that mailbox: take my job, as a pastor, and put it in; and pull out my job, as a dad and a husband, and put it on. So when I drove in my driveway, a few minutes later, it was like: “I know I’m tired; I know I’m exhausted—it doesn’t matter—I have to bring as much energy into this home as I’ve been bringing all day. It’s actually more important than what I’ve been doing all day,”—not that all day didn’t matter; it was very important—but it was like: “Man, this is the most important job. This job here—I can’t be replaced; only I can do this—and God’s called me to do it.”
Ann: I really want to commend the single parents, who are working, coming home, taking care of kids—like you’re doing it all—and it is not easy. Way to go, because you [have to] be all in; you know?
Dave: Yes; that was my mom. I didn’t even appreciate it at the time; but man, she gave everything.
That was Mistake #1. I would challenge any mom and dad: “There’s nothing more important than that job. Bring whatever you can to raising those kids.” I’ll end with this: they’re going to be gone before you know it. You’re going to blink, and they’re going to be out of the house, and you’re going to wonder, “Why didn’t I seize the day every day?” I know it’s exhausting; and I know it’s hard; and I know it’s worth it; so do it! That’s Mistake #1.
Mistake #2—I wrote this—“I was nicer to the mailman than to my kids.” [Laughter]
Ann: I think every parent could possibly say this.
Dave: Yes; and it’s just the simple thought of how you can be yelling at your kids, or in a fight with your spouse, and the doorbell rings. You walk up; and you’re like, “Hi, how are you doing?” It’s like: “What is going on right now? You’re nicer to a stranger at your front door than you are to the people you love and are doing life with.”
Ann: Think about walking into church. You were always at church, already, preaching; but I can remember going in the door—I mean, I’m just envisioning the kids in the minivan; and we’re driving to church. I’m like, “Kids, you need to stop fighting and stop punching!” Then we would walk in the door at church, like [cheerfully], “Hey!”
Dave: —rainbows and butterflies.
Ann: Yes! I think so many parents can relate to that. Our kids said to me once, “Why are you always so nice to the people on the phone and then you’re not as nice to us?” It’s so convicting.
Dave: Here’s all I know—and I wrote this under this point—is that I was so intense about doing things right, and being on time, and cleaning up the house that I missed moments to enjoy in our home.
I feel like you captured them—you were a joy-bringer; you brought fun and laughter into the home—and I often missed those moments, because I was thinking about the next sermon or—
Dave: Yes, money was a big one: “How are we going to pay for all the stuff that Ann wants to get for our kids?”
Ann: —or I did get for them.
Dave: Here’s the story I put in there—I’ll never forget the day I was standing in the kitchen—summer day—and I’m looking out through/we have two windows onto our driveway and to this basketball court that slants toward the backyard and our woods.
Ann: Yes, there’s a little hill there.
Dave: Yes; a pretty good hill. Anyway, I just happened to be glancing out, and I see CJ’s car. CJ was 16, he had just bought his first car with his lawn mowing money. I see CJ’s car; it starts rolling down the driveway; I can see it, so I start running out the back door, across the deck, because all I’m thinking is: “That car is going to roll into a tree and dent the bumper.” I don’t know why it’s rolling—I have no idea—but all I know is I’m running, and it’s going. It’s picking up speed, because of the slant of the hill. I’m sprinting as fast as I can.
Literally, as it’s going right toward a tree, I dive to grab the bumper, thinking that I’m going to stop this car. I can remember hanging on the bumper as it went right into this tree. [Laughter] Now, we’re laughing—I was so mad—obviously, somebody got in the car, hit the parking brake, didn’t know that it was in neutral, and it just rolled.
It was just a little kid’s mistake; they didn’t know. But I wanted answers, like: “Who did this?” “Why did this happen?” “Do you understand how much this is going to cost?!” All the boys are like frozen; they are afraid, because their dad is losing it. The neighbors are probably watching the pastor screaming at the world. And then you come out.
Ann: Well, I felt bad for CJ; because he paid for the car. But the whole scene was so funny! Dave is just on a rant; and sometimes, when he gets like that, I start giggling inside—but I’m trying to hold it in—but it just can’t be contained; it’s so funny to me! I’m trying to not show him that I’m laughing. I kind of fall to the ground in laughter.
Dave: Oh, you were laughing your head off—you fell to the ground—I mean, you’re belly-laughing; and that makes me even more mad. [Laughter]
Ann: I know; you were so mad at me! [Laughter]
Dave: I was like, “What are you doing?!”
It’s so funny—I can see the boys are like torn—they’re like: “We have one parent that’s irate and angry, and we have another parent laughing her head off. What do we do?” The next thing I know, they went with you. [Laughter] I don’t know what happened—but I’m looking at this car; and it’s in the woods, and it has a dent in the bumper; and I’m looking at you guys, all laughing—and it just hit me, “This is funny! There’s nothing I could have done…”
Ann: If you could have seen yourself, stretched out, reaching for the bumper, you would have laughed. [Laughter]
Dave: Finally, I laughed.
Ann: Well, Dave, you might feel like that’s a fail, as a parent; but there was another car story. We’ve had several car stories.
Dave: Yes, let me just say this: our oldest son had three car wrecks in our driveway. [Laughter] How’s that for your number-one son learning how to drive? He backed into three cars; that was fun.
Ann: We’ve had a lot of car stories. But you’ve also—you’ve had some wins—and we recently had the opportunity to talk to our youngest son, Cody, about a car story. I feel like this was a win for you, a win for him, and a win for us as a family.
[Recorded Phone Message]
Cody: My dad decides he’s in a mid-life crisis.
Dave: It sort of was.
Cody: And he decided, for like the first time, he was going to get a nice car—what was it?—like a ’96 Mustang—was it ’96?
Dave: —’96 Mustang convertible.
Ann: I think it cost you like $5,000.
Dave: I got it off EBay. It was a bag of bolts; it was not very nice, but it looked cool!
Cody: It was a convertible. I was 16; but that spring—my birthday was in March—I broke my right ankle playing baseball, so I was in a hard cast and had crutches. My dad was going to sell the car. I never actually drove it; but he was going to sell it the next day, so he wants it to be in perfect condition. I’m like, “Dad, I never drove it; I’m 16.” I don’t know if I’m even legally allowed to be driving with a hard cast on; somehow, he let me ride it.
Dave: Your mom convinced me.
Ann: I did.
Dave: I was like, “No way!”
Ann: “You need to let him; this is the one time/you need to let him drive this car.”
Dave: I’m like, “Okay, you can take it out for two hours; and just bring it right back home.”
Cody: I did. I don’t know where you guys—you guys had a dinner—so I took it out with the boys, and we were going around town. I dropped my buddies off, and we were going to go hang out at [with] a buddy’s friends for the night. At our house, you can park it in the driveway; but I felt really good, and I was so cautious the whole time I was driving it, so I’m like, “I’m going to pull it all the way into the driveway.”
Ann: —all the way into the garage.
Cody: —all the way into the garage, yes; right.
Part of it was I had the cast on my right foot, and the seat didn’t work; you couldn’t go back and forth; so I was already reaching anyway. We start pulling in, and I’m hitting the brake; and nothing’s happening. What was going on was I couldn’t feel the brake, and I couldn’t push it in far enough from how far back I was.
I’m halfway through, and I start panicking. For some reason, in my panic, I moved my foot to the right; hit the gas. The car—you know what’s happening—[Laughter]—the car goes flying into the back of the garage. We have these huge cabinets; it splits the cabinet in half, and then the door of the cabinet falls on top of the hood of the car. I am mortified!
My buddy comes to pick me up to go out; he didn’t really ask a lot of questions. I think he was just like, “You’re an idiot.” [Laughter] I ended up getting in the car with him, and we leave. At that point, I couldn’t even enjoy being out with my buddies; and I’m like, “I have to get home.”
But my parents are home at this point; I don’t know what’s going on. I called my mom, because everyone knows I have to call my mom to do some prep work [with dad]. I ended up coming home. My mom has done the prep work; and I’m trying to, in any way possible, lessen the blow of the consequences of what’s going on. I remember walking into my family room, getting on my knees, putting my arms out; I just start yelling, “I’m sorry!”
In the midst of that—I think my eyes were closed—and I noticed my dad starts getting off the couch and coming towards me. He gets on his knees at the same time I’m on my knees, and he puts his arms around me. He just whispers in my ear, “It’s just a car; it’s going to be okay”; and he gives me a hug.
Dave: You know, the interesting thing is Cody doesn’t know the turmoil that I went through.
Ann: I do.
Dave: Yes, you were there. When he was still off—you actually told him, “Don’t be home when we get home,”—because you knew. [Laughter] Then, when I first saw the car, my first response was, again,—
Dave: —it was about the car and the money. It took me an hour to get to a place, where it’s like, “You know what? It’s just a car. It’s just a couple dollars.”
Let me say this: “This $5,000 car is not more important than a $10 million son.” I knew that, when he got in the house, I needed to give him what God had given me: total forgiveness.
Ann: I just want to paint a picture—[emotion in voice]—it makes me tear up thinking about this moment—of a 16-year-old boy, who comes in on his knees, like, “I’m sorry.”
Dave: Yes, he was so broken.
Ann: But to see his dad come, face to face, with him on his knees; and you just wrapped him in your arms and hugged him, and said, “It’s just a car,”—that, for me, was a moment like—“This is grace. This is Jesus; this how He wraps us in His grace and the truth of the gospel.”
Dave: That’s only done through the power of the Holy Spirit, in me and in you, as a parent. In that moment, I never would have thought this story would ever be told ever again; seriously! [Laughter]
Dave: Yet, for Cody, it was a moment of the Father’s love—not just me—but his heavenly Father. So thank God that, in our mistakes as parents, our God meets us right there; and He covers. There are some horrible mistakes that we make, as parents; and yet, there’s a God that sort of wraps His arms around our sons and daughters and gets them through it.
“Mom and Dad,”—I would say—“forgive yourself—God already has—your kids will eventually. Relax in the grace of God,” and “The grace that God’s given you, give it to your kids; admit to them your mistakes.”
Ann: I was going to say, “You can apologize to them.” It’s amazing how our kids will quickly—most of the time—forgive us. It’s beautiful to be forgiven.
Bob: Honestly, all of us can relate to what Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking about today about having regrets, as parents, as we raise our children. Dave and Ann’s new book is called No Perfect Parents. We all laugh and nod our heads when hear that, because we know we’re not perfect; we were not raised by perfect parents—there is no such thing—and yet, in our imperfections, God is still there. He can bring beauty out of the ashes of our parenting.
We have copies of Dave and Ann’s new book, No Perfect Parents, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. The subtitle is: Ditch Expectations, Embrace Reality, and Discover the One Secret that Will Change Your Parenting. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to get a copy of Dave and Ann’s book.
In fact, if you’re interested, we have Dave and Ann’s book, together with the video series, the Art of Parenting® that is designed for small groups to use together. We put those together in a bundle and are offering them at a special price. You can find out more about that when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you have any questions/if you’d like to order the book, No Perfect Parents, or find out more about the Art of Parenting. Call 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask about No Perfect Parents or about the Art of Parenting when you get in touch with us.
One more thing before we wrap up here. If you’re involved in ministry to blended families or stepfamilies—if you’re the marriage and family minister at your local church—there’s an event coming up in the Atlanta area, October 14 and 15. It’s the two-day Summit on Stepfamily Ministry that FamilyLife is hosting. Ron Deal, who gives leadership to FamilyLife Blended®, is leading this event. Over the two-day period, they’re going to be talking about what churches and ministries can do to help couples, who are forming a blended family, start well: “How do you help them prepare for what’s ahead before they actually form their blended family?—before they get married?”
You can find out more about the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry by going to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, it’s happening in the Atlanta area October 14 and 15, and you can register today. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for all the information.
Tomorrow, we’re going to hear from Ann Wilson about what she would identify as the mistakes she made as she was raising her sons. We’ve all been there; right? We’ll hear from Ann tomorrow; I hope you can be with us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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