The Plight of the Over-Researched Parent

I love the internet.

I also happen to hate it.

I’m a learner, and the internet is an endless library of information. Whether I’m trying to figure out what a star is made of, or I need a quick recipe to whip up for my guests, I am constantly learning new information from the inter-webs.

However, because of the internet, I’ve also learned just how bad I am at this whole parenting thing. I’ve learned that the sunscreen I use on my kids will likely bring them an early death. I’ve learned that the chicken nuggets I feed them has been linked to brain-shrinkage. I’ve learned that the way I’ve been teaching them the alphabet actually slows down their development*.

As a parent, I hate the internet.

At the core of my frustration is the thought that behind every new article I read, there is a perfect parent raising a perfect child. A dad who never loses his temper. A mom who has taught their two-year-old how to do yoga. A child who begs to snack on broccoli. Then I look over at my little cherubs; they’re eating carcinogenic crackers and drinking their sugar-laden juice. I cringe. Why can’t I just be like those internet parents? They know what they’re doing. They’re disciplined enough to feed their child only organic, made-from-scratch foods. They’re smart enough to homeschool.

In the West, we are extremely competitive. We love to be the best, or at least present like the best to the world around us. If I’m honest, I want my kids to be the healthiest, the smartest, and the most athletic. I want to look like I know what I’m doing as a parent, and convince those around me that I am doing a good job.

The truth is, I often feel like I have no idea, and I find myself struggling with insecurities as I watch all the moms and dads around me parent their kids better than I can.

Parenting is exhausting. Researching is exhausting. And putting on the mask of “perfect parent” is exhausting. Here are three reason why we shouldn’t be doing this alone.

1.) There is No Perfect Child or Parent

One of the greatest dangers we face as a parents raising our kids in the digital-age is comparison. If we’re not careful, we will use blog articles, Facebook, and Instagram to convince ourselves that everyone has it figured out but us. The beauty of raising your kids in the context of real community is that you quickly learn that there is no perfect parent, and no perfect child. Let’s be honest, we all have a little party inside of our head when we see another kid throw a tantrum or disobey their parents or talk back. It reminds us that we’re not alone.

2.) The Internet Doesn’t Know You or Your Child

It’s easy for online writers to make blanket statements about children or parenting. “Every parent should do this….” or “The one thing every family should have…” or “Why disciplining your child like this is causing harm…”. These are general thoughts geared toward the general pubic. Raising your kids in the context of community allows you to surround yourself with people who can uniquely love you and your children. The internet can make a general statement about how you’re parenting, but a friend can speak specific truth into your life. A friend can objectively tell you your strengths and weaknesses.

3.) Everything is Always Changing

As my wife was weaning our first-born from nursing, we researched our hearts out about what formula is the best during this transition. We found a few articles that showed a particular brand at the top of the list. Six months later, I kid you not, I read a new research article that stated how this same formula had the highest levels of a toxin called arsenic. That’s right. We had been bottle-feeding our precious child arsenic!

Information is always changing, and it’s exhausting to try and keep up. Things once considered the best is now the worst. What was once considered a danger is now said to be beneficial. It’s impossible to always “do right” when the right thing to do always seems to change.

A solid community will allow you to build a foundation that provides stability for both you and your child in the midst of a chaotic world. The internet “rights and wrongs” will always change, but the tangible demonstration of love for one another is always right. The giving and receiving of forgiveness is always right. Praying and interceding for each other, and even our enemies, is always right. You can’t demonstrate these things for your kids by reading it on someone’s parenting blog post. Surrounding yourself with Christ-centered community will allow you to raise kids in a stable environment.

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Parents, use the internet as a tool in your parenting journey, but don’t allow it to become the gauge of your success. Success is not determined by how well your kids out-perform their peers, but rather, how well they love Jesus. May we lay down our individual competitions and surround ourselves with people who will help point us and our kids toward Jesus. We don’t need more research, we need more grace. We need more people reminding us that our value is not based on how well we perform, but rather, on who we are because of what Jesus did on the cross.

You can not, and should not raise your kids alone. Find a tribe.