But I am human and I do these things. I snap impatient. I holler shame. I refuse selfishly. And in doing so, I wound those who are both the most precious and most defenseless: my children.
I can know all the right things to do and say, focusing on relationship and connection as I gently guide my children through life...but I'm going to mess up. And when I do the wrong thing, I need to fix it. I need to make amends and restore the relationship I have damaged.
I need to apologize.
And in doing so, I find such sweetness in a child's ready forgiveness.
I remember being pregnant and tired and grumpy. I wasn't giving my best to my oldest. Gone were the days of peacefully and patiently wandering through our days together. Instead I was being snippy and loud, intolerant of his typical-two behaviour.
Suddenly I was having to humble myself, kneel down, and apologize to my child.
Part of me wanted to protest: But I'm the grown-up! He should have just listened to me the first time! What pride and foolishness it would have been to allow that to still my tongue and leave my child heartsick and ashamed.
Instead, I would gather him into my arms each time. As I did, I would tell him:
"I am sorry, Love. I shouldn't have yelled at you like that. It was wrong of me. God doesn't want me to treat you that way. He doesn't want anyone to treat you that way. He created you and you are His child, and He wants me to take care of you properly. Will you forgive me?"His forgiveness was always offered readily, putting to shame my own habit of holding on to hurt and anger. After granting me his forgiveness, he would hold my hand as I prayed aloud for God to forgive me as well.
I wish I could say everything was sunny and serene again once the baby was born, but those days are long past. I am an imperfect person and an imperfect mother; is there any other kind? I continually strive for better, seeking those practices which help each of us to grow and bloom and thrive, but I make mistakes along the journey. I lose my temper, kneel, and apologize. I overlook the needful, draw near, and ask forgiveness. And by doing so, I discover relationships restored, hearts softened, self-worth reaffirmed, and connection strengthened.
There is healing in apology, both for them and for me. There is beauty in a return to peace and connection. There is joy in knowing that we are not defined by our mistakes. Aside from prayer as I seek the Spirit's leading along this journey, there is no aspect of my parenting more important than admitting my wrongdoings and seeking my child's forgiveness. None of the rest matters if I withhold that which they need most: the knowledge and assurance that they are worthy, that they don't deserve to be treated poorly, and that my mistakes are not excused simply because I'm an adult. They need my humble and sincere apologies as much as they need my unconditional love.
An apology from the one who has wronged them is sweet comfort and reassurance, and words of truth and worth and value nourish our children's souls.
Today I am joining in Sarah's Practices of Parenting Carnival by sharing one of my own Practices of Mothering.
For a wealth of wisdom and beauty, read the rest of Sarah's Practices of Mothering series.