I racked up another vote for the ‘Mom of the Year Award’ this week. It was ten-thirty on the Monday morning after Easter break when I realized that my oldest son had received an award at his school two hours earlier while I sat at home and ate homemade hash browns.
Do I even need to describe the feeling that settled in my stomach? You know it, don’t you (say yes)? It’s similar to the way you feel after eating breakfast at McDonald’s: like there is a rock in your stomach.
If there is anything worse than failing your family, tell me what it is now so I can make sure to never experience it.
I flashed back to all of the times I have let this kid down. I remembered when he was five and we’d won a membership to a karate school for a month. He loved it, and he was learning such invaluable tools like self-control and awareness. When it came time to decide if we should keep going, the school worked hard to give us a discount on membership, but at the end of it all, we just couldn’t make it work. I was devastated. I came to my five year old in tears and said, “Baby, I’m so sorry. We can’t do karate anymore.”
“That’s okay, mom,” he said, and never mentioned it again.
When we signed him up for summer camp for the first time, the to-bring list included a pocket knife, so I got on Amazon and ordered what looked like an awesome Swiss Army Knife for $14.99. It arrived and was literally the size of finger nail clippers. I should have paid more attention. I wasn’t sure what they needed the knives for, so I didn’t think much of it until we arrived at camp and there were boys with real pocket knives, and they were carving out pieces of wood like pros. Salem looked at one boy’s and said, “That’s a cool knife. Mine’s a lot smaller.”
The McDonald’s breakfast rock landed in my stomach with a thud, and I began verbally abusing myself as we left Salem behind at camp. We ended up driving back up there right after purchasing him a real pocket knife at an outdoors store nearby. When we picked him up the next Saturday, he said that one of his buddies had arrived with no knife at all, so he’d given him the little red Swiss Army knife to keep.
This kid. I love him with my whole heart. He is unfazed by things like me failing him, even though I beat myself up over it all the time.
Every time I screw up as a parent (or in any relationship for that matter), I immediately go into fix-it mode. I want to make it right, I want to make amends, and prove to my kid, with stuff, that I actually do love him and that my failure doesn’t mean that I don’t care.
Monday was no different. I began listing all the ways I could prove to my son that I loved him in spite of missing his awards ceremony. I considered Sonic milkshakes on the way home, going out for dinner, an Amazon gift card for his Kindle . . . I wanted to make it up to him so badly.
But then something occurred to me and I realized that if I went through any of those motions in order to gain back his trust and confidence in my love for him, I would be sending a message that could alter the way he deals with failure forever. I would be teaching him to expect something more than a simple apology anytime someone failed him, and that he would have to earn someone else’s forgiveness when he was the one failing.
“You wronged me, so how are you going to fix it?”
“I screwed up, but I’m going to make it up to you.”
It’s a thought process that leads to an entitlement mentality and teaches us to expect to be compensated for things that can not be compensated for.
I can not do a single thing to fix the fact that I missed Salem’s award assembly. Nothing I do will allow me to travel back in time to make an appearance at school. Nothing I buy will make him be more apt to forgive me and if it did then we would really have a problem!
Forgiveness is a gift. We can put conditions and prices on it, but the bottom line is that you either give it or you don’t. I don’t believe that any of our actions make us more forgivable, except for the very act of asking for forgiveness, and I think we can see that pretty clearly in Scripture.
Luke 17:3-4 (NIV) “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
It doesn’t say, “After they make amends, maybe buy you a milkshake or two, forgive them,” does it?
I want my kids to have a healthy understanding of repentance and forgiveness, and the only way I can impart that to them is to model it for them.
When Salem got in the car on Monday after school, I apologized profusely, and told him how disappointed I was in myself. He surprised me by telling me that he was actually really upset that I wasn’t there because he thought that meant he wouldn’t be getting an award. I was crushed that he’d been so upset, and again I wavered on looking for ways to slap a bandaid on that wound. I apologized multiple times throughout the day, because I am still human and I wanted him to know how badly I felt about it. Finally he said, “Mom, you have nothing to apologize for.”
He had already forgiven me and moved on.
This. Kid. Y’all.
Repenting for my failure cost me nothing, and receiving forgiveness from my son was such a sweet gift, but the lesson that I learned through the whole Mom-fail was the real blessing in all of this. It taught me not only to freely forgive, but to be freely forgiven as well.