I sit down on the couch next to my 5 year old, with tears in my eyes. I look her and say “I’m sorry.” She immediately says “I forgive you.” We both say I love you and off she goes to play.
I don’t always get it right. I don’t handle every situation correctly. Sometimes, I yell. I yell more than I would like to admit. Sometimes, I can’t handle all the noise. Sometimes, my immediate reaction to misbehavior isn’t what it should be.
I am not a perfect parent. I screw up all the time. My kids are not perfect kids. But who is perfect? God. God is perfect.
Growing up I didn’t have the best role models for how to handle discipline. I obeyed. I was a well-behaved child. But my obedience was out of fear, not respect, love or the desire to do the right thing.
I look back now on specific situations that stick out to me. Moments from as far back as age 4 or 5. The age my two oldest are now. Punishments that made no sense. Being punished for being a kid. Punishments I felt I didn’t deserve, that I still don’t feel I deserved. Not knowing that something I did or said was wrong until I was already in trouble. No discussion, explanation, change to do better-just punishment. I didn’t dare question.
By age 11 or 12 years old, I learned that being honest only got me into more trouble and I often made up the “lesson learned” to end my grounding.
Every once in awhile I hear things come out of my mouth and I cringe. Trying to erase what was ingrained in you for 18 years is hard. What feels like a natural response at times is not the right one.
The words used often wounded me. They helped shape my concept of self. I understood what was wrong with me at a young age. Many of these demons I still fight today.
I don’t want that for my children. I don’t want them to have a laundry list of their failures and only see themselves through that lens.
I don’t ever remember hearing “I am sorry” growing up.
I teach my kids the importance of apologizing when they do something wrong. So in these moments when I handle the situation wrong, I apologize.
Kids hear what you say but they believe what you do. They learn more from your actions than your words. I am living proof that you learn what you live.
It is even more important for my kids to know that I know that I am not perfect. That I make mistakes. That I am able to own those mistakes.
The good news is God loves me even when I screw up. And I make sure they know that I love them, even when they make a poor choice. And God still loves them too.
I will never be a perfect parent. I will screw up again. I want my kids to know that I respect them enough to offer an apology when I am wrong. With God’s help I have to do better, be better.