As my back stretched uncomfortably in half-moon pose, my mind berated my body for its inflexibility. Our yoga instructor spoke grace as she welcomed the class to our yoga practice. “Each day we practice yoga,” she said, “our bodies and our minds are different than the time before.”

After class, this idea really resonated with me. As a mother of two, I think the same could be said about parenting: Every day we parent, we “practice parenting” because each day we are different than the day before.

How do you feel about the practice of parenting? Have you ever gotten caught up like me thinking that as parents we should naturally know when to stand our ground with our kids, when to be gentle, when to challenge and when to just listen?

No matter how much or little you prepare, there will always be ways in which your children and God surprise you.

Instead of practicing parenthood, leaning into the idea that we are constantly looking to do our best but never quite there, we often think we need to be experts in it from our newborn’s first cry. Don’t get me wrong—do all you can to be ready for parenting with prenatal classes, books and babysitting. But don’t be shy as a parent to continue to look for guidance. No matter how much or little you prepare, there will always be ways in which your children and God surprise you.

If we can give ourselves a measure of grace knowing that we want what is best for our kids, and we promise to provide the basics of food, shelter and love—beyond that, is there room enough to say we are practicing all the other aspects of parenthood?

A new approach to back to school

With kids heading back to school, routines pick back up, as does the traffic. And if we were a little more lax over the summer, now our own parenting expectations often skyrocket searching for that “A” again. Is there a way to keep that from happening?

On the days when the good parenting decisions don’t come easily, you are feeling stretched and the new school year weighs uncomfortably heavier than the last, perhaps there’s an opportunity to remind yourself and your family about grace.

Perhaps we can tell ourselves that last year was last year, first grade is not going to be the same as kindergarten, high school is a whole different ballgame than junior high. Each day of the year our bodies and minds are different than the day before, and even the year before.

Adjusting to bus schedules, packing lunches and the return of homework may take a week—or two—or more. On the days when the good parenting decisions don’t come easily, you are feeling stretched and the new school year weighs uncomfortably heavier than the last, perhaps there’s an opportunity to remind yourself and your family about grace.

Grace reminds us we are always practicing faith and life—even as parents. Teenagers—and adults—often think they know it all. Yet, hopefully, as adults we learn we don’t know it all, and maybe, most importantly, we can give ourselves permission to stop pretending that we do.

Want your kids to learn more than academics this year? What could your daily parenting practice help teach them and yourself about grace? (Don’t overcomplicate it. You aren’t being graded by God!) Talk with your children about God’s love when there are the inevitable bumps in the road back to school.

When those bumps come along, remind your children that we are all in this journey together, all on one giant school bus, learning and practicing faithful living together.

If these kinds of conversations seem like a stretch, just remember you don’t have to be an expert. We are all practicing parenthood. So how can you bring grace home?

Janelle Rozek Hooper
Janelle Rozek Hooper is the program director for ELCA Ministry with Children and campus pastor at the University of Houston and Rice University. She is author of "Heaven on Earth: Studies in Matthew," published by Augsburg Fortress Press. Hooper lives with her husband and two children in Texas.

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