You cringe as you watch your daughter-in-law speak in baby talk to your 10-year-old granddaughter. You see your son embarrass your 12-year-old grandson in front of you and others and want to do the same to him.

"Just wait," you think. "When you poor kids come to visit, I'll do things differently. I'll defy their rules and make you see that your parents are complete idiots when it comes to raising children. By example, I'll show them how it's done."

And then, you realize, you already did.

Watching other parents raise their children is often heartbreaking. I know I've seen things and want to take the parents aside and tell them if they can't do it right, to let me raise the children for them. When it's your own children and children-in-law, it becomes more personal.

"This is not how I raised you!" you cry out in your head. But take a moment and remember:

  • The time you gave your daughters syrup of Ipecac to teach them that they shouldn't have a pretend tea party with the berries from the dogwood tree because it might make them sick, and then watched them vomit anyway.

  • The times you didn't believe your daughter when she told you that her father was threatening her.

  • The time you walked into your son's high school class to bring him the lunch he forgot and called him "cupcake" in front of his friends.

  • The time you asked your daughter to pray for you because you felt God did not hear your own prayers.

  • The time you grounded your son for something you knew he was responsible for, but found out later that he had no part of.

  • The times you borrowed money from your children and never paid it back.

  • The times you made them eat pancakes three meals a day because you were too proud to ask for help.

  • The times you read a diary, listened in on a phone call, or otherwise invaded their privacy.

Oh, wait, that wasn't you, was it? I would love to tell you that these are arbitrary examples from my imagination, but living by my honesty policy, I must confess, these are painful examples from my own parenting. And despite my misjudgments and flagrant abuses, I have managed to raise some absolutely outstanding adults who, truthfully, are doing so much better at raising their children than I did.

Now, let's take it back a generation. Remember:

  • Having to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes because your parents caught you smoking.

  • Having your father loudly chew you out in the middle of a grocery store.

  • Being spanked with a belt.

  • Having your father wear a holster and pistol every time a boy came to the house for you.

  • Having to sit and eat a whole plate of macaroni and cheese even though it made you sick.

Nope, that wasn't me. That was my parents' parenting. And I'm a pretty OK adult and a pretty OK parent.

My mother put it best: "When you know better, you do better."

Children somehow manage to grow up into pretty good people despite our shortcomings and your grandchildren will do the same. Each generation gets a little better than the one before.

So, go ahead and have fun with the grandkids. But support their parents in their decisions. All it takes is a moment to remember your own failures and then prayerfully and patiently allow your children to learn from theirs.

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