Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Forgive As My Father Forgives

The culprits, eating carrots & licking frosting off mixers.
It started with silence around 6:15pm. Silence is never good in a house of toddlers. Silence = trouble. They weren't in the play room, so I went searching. Liam had to go potty so he went to my parents' bathroom and Graham followed behind with a pitcher full of poker chips and fake money. Don't ask.

I found Graham sitting in my parents' shower with the coins spread out around him. Liam was going potty. I said, "Dinner is ready and you shouldn't be in here. Pick it up and come out now." And I walked away. Mistake. 

A few minutes later I heard my name and went looking to see what was the matter. Both boys were now in the shower with the glass doors slid shut - and stuck. I got my dad. Long story short. He was getting quite frustrated trying to open the doors which must have come off the track. He was angry with the boys, asking them why they were in the shower in the first place (my fault). And as I was asking... "Can I help?"  *Shatter!!*  I heard Graham start crying and then he got handed to me around the door. Next came Liam, handed off. I saw blood on the ground and hoped it hadn't come from either of them. Liam started crying. I started crying. Everyone was crying! There was glass everywhere. 

I dealt with the kids and my parents cleaned up the mess. Side note - after dinner they went in to try to slide the other door into place and it broke too. Ugh.

I was so angry at those boys. No dessert. No Curious George. Eat dinner and get in bed. I reminded them that I told them to get out of the shower and they didn't listen. At dinner Liam apologized to my dad for breaking the door and my dad pointed out that they didn't break it. He did. I jumped in to say, but you WERE disobeying. I didn't want to let them off the hook. When it came time for tucking in, I was cold to them, but tried to make sure the night ended on a loving note. 

Meanwhile in Adult Land, I was crying. Telling my dad I was so sorry. He said - don't worry about it. It's okay. He was frustrated, but he didn't lose his temper with me. 

I couldn't help but think about the story of the Unmerciful Servant from the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18. The king forgave his huge debt but then when someone owed HIM a smaller one he was unmerciful and threw him in prison. I was the middle-man debtor in this story-turned-real-life. My dad forgave me before I even asked yet I was so angry that I couldn't properly tuck my kids into bed.

But here's the tough part: When it comes to parenting, if you are too quick to forgive do you miss out on the opportunity to teach a lesson? Of course there is a lesson there on forgiveness and mercy, but where's the dividing line between holding on too long and reinforcing the message? 


  1. I love that this ends with questions ... because, to me, it seems like parenting was (is!) all about questions. We pray to get it right but we don't actually get our answer until later ... much later ...

    Not that I'm any kind of expert (or theologian!), but I think you handled it just right. The best time to learn life-and-death lessons is when they AREN'T yet life-and-death. There are reasons for every rule and the boys have now learned that breaking rules can have big, embarrassing, possibly painful, consequences. Much better now than behind the wheel.

    1. Yeah. I can't tell if I'm ever doing it right but the moments of "this is wrong" seem to be clear as day!

  2. Perhaps you're having a harder time with this because you were worried they'd been hurt? This wasn't the disobedience of a messy playroom or a swiped cookie. You saw blood. For one or more moments I'm sure you had that full-body-cold-ice-in-your-veins-fear that they were truly hurt. I know because I've felt that fear too, and I've been far harder on my girls when they do something that could get them hurt than for any other offense. This is because of all the things they can damage, discard, ruin, or disrespect, the only ones that truly matter to me are THEM. Your father found it easy to forgive the broken door because the door is a thing, and there is no broken thing that I would not quickly forgive my children for. The only action I would have trouble forgiving them for is doing damage to themselves, because without them my life would be a dim shadow of what it is now. Maybe that's how you can explain it to your sons--that the one offense that you cannot bear is them putting themselves in danger. And playing in a shower is, in fact, rather dangerous, because if water was running and they slipped and fell they could break a bone or crack their skull or worse. This is a lesson you can reinforce throughout their lives, the reason you will be more angry with them if they run out into traffic; stay in a pool if there's lightening; get into a car with a drunk driver. There will never be anything scarier to you, or me, as a mom, than losing our child(ren) to all the horrors of the world at large. To lose our child to their own negligence would be to heap pain and guilt upon devastation. Anything you can do to teach them that they are more valuable to you than anything in life--including staying angry at them for longer than you would for a broken door--can only reinforce the message that their foolishness would not only lead to getting themselves hurt, but would truly damage you, too. Why? Because you're a good mom, Abby. You really are.