There are a handful of defining moments (some good, some bad) that I can point to when thinking of what has shaped me to be the mother I am today. One such moment came on a crisp Sunday morning in September, 2010. I was sitting in church, attempting to steal a moment or two of peace before returning to the chaos that was my life, and my parenting, at the time.
There was a baptism that morning and the minister conducting the ceremony said something that has stuck with me ever since. He charged the parents with the task of creating a family which speaks the language of forgiveness. He asked them to forgive, and forgive, and forgive their children so they, too, would learn to forgive.
The simplicity of the message hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, that is the type of parent I want to be. That is the type of parent I need to be. It seems obvious, but I was so caught up in the world of discipline, behavior modification, correction and control, that forgiveness was not on the forefront of my mind. “I forgive you,” rarely (ever?) spoken.
I set a goal for myself in that moment that the next time I was faced with misbehavior, I’d try to remember that it was an opportunity to teach how to forgive, not how to punish. I knew even then that surely there would be a day when I would need to ask my children for forgiveness and if they had none to give, then I’d only have my lack of teaching to blame.
Well, I was right. Not too long after that, I was the one needing to ask for forgiveness. And then again, and again, and again. In the 3 years that have passed since hearing that powerful message, I’ve screwed up a ton; and said “sorry” even more. But I’ve kept my word and doled out the forgiveness as much as it was granted for me.
In preparation for the big move to Kindergarten, my son’s preschool teacher filled out a questionnaire on his strengths and weaknesses to be passed along to his new teacher. There were plenty of compliments and plenty of areas to address, but one statement in particular stood out:
R forgives friends quickly following conflict. He is our class role model on forgiving.
I couldn’t help but think back to that crisp Sunday morning. I was so proud of him and thought: maybe, just maybe, we are doing this special soul justice.
This week was an especially tough one for me. As children often do, my youngest used her spidey sense to detect that I was under a lot of stress, then decided to pile it on with the hitting/kicking/not sleeping torture trifecta. Forgiveness was not so much on my mind as was selling her to the highest bidder. I lost my cool. I met her poor behavior with some of my own. But one way or another, morning came and she woke me up as she often does with a kiss on my cheek and a cute toddler giggle. I opened my eyes to her gently rubbing my arm and pulled her into bed for a nice long cuddle. We basked in each other’s forgiveness.
I’m a hard-headed, take-no-shit, go-getter by nature and things like mercy, forgiveness, and humility – signs of true strength of character – don’t always come easily to me. But my beautiful children are filled to the brim with these resilient, pure, qualities and I want to nurture that which I admire in them. So I say a lot of “I’m sorry”‘s and “I forgive you”‘s and revel in the beauty of having a warm, safe, place to practice forgiveness – and to be forgiven – over and over again.