In our house we love homemade cookies—Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, and Snickerdoodles. Course I cheat a little and buy the Betty Crocker packaged mixes so I only have to add butter and eggs.

After 50+ dozen, I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of making each cookie the same size. I remind myself it’s a matter of practice which my kids are all for when it comes to cookies.

A few days ago I was putting a fresh batch in the cookie jar and decided to leave two out, one for each of my girls. Usually, I try to make sure they are the same size. This time something made me pause. Why do I do that? At 12 and 13 years old, my daughters wrestle with selfishness—the first one to beat a path to the kitchen to get their cookie usually picks the bigger one.

If I put matching cookies out every time, was I robbing them of opportunities to practice putting others first? Was I denying them the opportunity to deny themselves and be like Jesus?

Parenting is the hardest job in the world because as adults we are flawed individuals bearing our own burden of childhood issues, each of our children is vastly different in personality, talent, and intellect, and to be honest, there’s no parental “down-time” especially for those heroic single parents who play both mom and dad (God bless you).

In the craziness of life, oftentimes we try to find the easiest path for ourselves and our kids—the one of least resistance. But when I always work to smooth the way for my child, does that really prepare them for the rocky terrain they are going to have to walk once they leave my care? Can I actually hurt my children when I don’t create “learning moments” or make them “practice” good decision making? Is it love to always protect my kids from the consequences of their own choices?

In truth, I’d rather my kids learn some of life’s most valuable lessons when the consequences are small (getting grounded for cheating on a test) rather than when those consequences can radically affect the direction of their adult life (teen pregnancy).

Can creating opportunities for my daughters to practice Philippians 2:3 (“consider others better than yourselves”) guarantee they won’t make some very wrong decisions in their young adult life? Of course not. But it will certainly help to equip them with the tools they will need to build a life of character and consideration for others.

So maybe I won’t work so hard to clone my cookies the next time my kids have a hankering. Sometimes practicing not being perfect can turn out to be the best treat of all.