Better than Good Enough

Colleen Duggan leads us on the path of merciful parenting – for ourselves and others.

(photo: Register Files)

Colleen Duggan is one of those authors who you wish you could meet in person after having read their book. I’m blessed to have met Colleen in person this past summer at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference and can witness to the fact that she’s as genuine face-to-face as she is page-to-page in her new book, Good Enough is Good Enough (Ave Maria Press, 2018). It is in every way a “let’s hang out for a while” kind of book. Her honesty and conversational tone draw readers in and put them immediately at ease much the way I was drawn in when I met her.

But it’s even more than that. Duggan’s book is filled with wisdom, assurance, and support for parents who worry whether they’re doing a good enough job of raising their children. Frankly, what well-meaning parent doesn’t worry about that? By sharing her own fears of inadequacy, Duggan voices what most of us are afraid to express and by admitting her own shortcomings, she shows us that being imperfect is perfectly fine. If you’re tempted to think that Duggan’s is a defeatist attitude, think again. She’s imperfect but not defeated because she has God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy to rely on. Duggan realizes that God will make things right even if she initially makes them wrong.

“I didn’t need to wish I had been born a different way of to force my sometimes-volatile nature into an unrealistic vapid serenity. Beating myself up for all my inadequacies was a waste of time. I could accept myself as God made me – weaknesses included – and then I needed to turn to him to make me well. I slowly learned to trust that the Lord would heal me, but that it would be in his good time and in his good way,” she wrote.

That’s true for all parents, and Good Enough is Good Enough proves it.

In the chapters of the book, Duggan makes five confessions, ones that I daresay are  universal to all loving parents in one form or another:

  1. I Don’t Know How to Master Motherhood
  2. I Don’t Always Take Care of Myself as I Should
  3. I Don’t Know How to Keep My Kids Catholic
  4. I Don’t Like Watching My Children Suffer
  5. Sometimes I Compare Myself with Other Parents

From realizing she’d inadvertently taught her toddler to curse to succumbing hopelessness when her young son was struck with a mysterious life-threatening condition to seeing her younger brother through alcohol and drug addiction and more, Duggan becomes an unassuming heroine for us to admire and follow. It isn’t despite her weakness that we take her to heart; it’s because of it.

In a masterful way, Duggan leads us on the path of merciful parenting – for ourselves and others.

“So, let’s have mercy on ourselves and let’s have mercy on our fellow Catholic parents who aren’t always able to institute the parenting practices they may desire,” she wrote. “Unless we are failing in our moral obligations to raise Catholic children imbued with the faith, most of the parenting practices we choose reflect our preferences, not our religious and moral convictions. Let’s assume we are all trying our very best to raise our kids to the best of our abilities, even if we’re not able to attain the ‘ideal’ as we’ve defined it. Let’s have mercy on ourselves for the times when we have had to choose a less desirable approach than we originally intended, and let’s have mercy on those parents who’ve had to do the same thing. And let’s rally behind each other to offer love, support, and encouragement instead of our often unhelpful opinions. We can’t ever fully know the situations or the reasons behind the decisions a family makes, but we can give each other love and the benefit of the doubt.”

Good Enough is Good Enough ends with a prayer Duggan wrote and prays herself – The Litany of Humility for Parents – the perfect culmination for a book about the frustrations, fears, stresses, sorrows, enlightenments and joys of imperfect parenting. Truly, it’s better than good enough.