“Mommy, those are not nice words!”
I stop dead in my tracks, processing what he said and feeling conviction spread over me.
Sigh. He’s right.
Once again, I’m red in the face because I said something unkind to my kiddo in a moment of frustration. I reacted instead of responding. I did not cover my words with God’s love. I did not pray before I opened my big, fat mouth.
And while yes, my son was in the wrong first and yes, he was due a correction, my words to him were not ones from a teaching heart, but came from a place of disquiet and a longing for him to just behave. And I know that words like that never really teach what I want them to. Instead, they expose my own patience level and my lack of self-control. They show my need to have my words heard (and sometimes heard loudly), even if I haven’t carefully thought them out first.
And while I know that he’s right, it would be so easy for me to walk away and pretend like what he said didn’t matter. I could brush it off that he’s the child and I’m the parent and he just needs to listen. I could act like I’ve got it all figured out and that his hurts aren’t my problem.
But truthfully, I don’t believe any of these things. And I don’t want him to think that I do believe them. So I stop, and I turn and say, “You’re right, kiddo. They weren’t nice words. I’m sorry, can you please forgive me?” And he says he will and we hug and we move on with our day.
We’ve been working on this for a long time. I wish I could say that I rarely mess up with my kids, but I mess up all the time. All. The. Time. I say stupid things that I don’t mean and I get frustrated at the drop of a hat (or a glass of juice or a plate of food or a large toy on my pinky toe). And knowing that our kids learn much more of what is caught than taught, I’ve made it my mission to apologize when I make a mistake.
I started this when my oldest was really little. There was something about reaching the point when I was asking my son to apologize for his wrongs that made me realize that I needed to be willing to do the same. Of course, at that age, he wasn’t fully aware of what that meant. But as he’s gotten older we’ve come to a place where he knows that I’m willing to humble myself and ask for his forgiveness.
The truth is, I don’t want my kids to think that I have it all together. I don’t want them to think that I’m perfect or that I never make mistakes. Because if I was, if I never messed up in front of them and never had to say that I was sorry, how would they know that I need Jesus to save me? How would I ever help foster a culture of grace in my home? How would my life be pointing them towards our most merciful King?
I’m so imperfect at this, but it’s a goal that I continue to work towards.
I challenge you mommas, if this isn’t something that you practice regularly in your home, give it a try. It’s a hard thing to start, but it gets more natural as you go. Many of us come from an upbringing where apology was extremely hard for our parents, and even harder for their parents before them, but we can’t let that stop us. Too many kids are hearing that Jesus is the way to forgiveness, but aren’t seeing that modeled through those who are raising them. They are being told to ask God to heal and cleanse them but not seeing their parents asking for the same thing. Let’s not let those kids be ours.
I really believe that the greatest gift I am able to give my children on a day-to-day basis is my apologies. A real, true, contrite heart before the Lord and a willingness to admit my mistakes to them and ask for their forgiveness. To let them hear me go before God asking for forgiveness as well, when I sin against them or against someone else. To let them see how badly their mommy needs Jesus, so that they won’t be afraid to need Him as well.
Let’s raise up kids who are able to say when they are wrong. Who aren’t afraid to admit their mistakes and ask forgiveness of those they have hurt. It’s starts with us, moms. We are the example-setters, we are the pace-changers. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, it’s never too late.
Are you with me?