Last week, I was sitting on the floor with my daughter, helping her sort hundreds of tiny rubber bands by color after I accidentally knocked over her Rainbow Loom band storage box that had been left open and sitting precariously on our dining room bench. As we worked, she talked. (I love that about working side by side with my kids, how they talk and open up, especially when I’m helping them with something.) And she told me something I will cling to as a mother for a long time.
“Mom,” she said, “today at school we had to write a biography about ourselves. And we had to write about the important people in our lives. I wrote about dad because he is so good at taking care of us. But I also wrote about you because you are also a really important person in my life.”
“Oh yeah? And what did you write about me?” I asked, feeling a little twinge of nervousness about what her answer might be.
“I said that my mom is important to me because she loves me and always gives me second chances.”
images via emilymcclements on Instagram
It’s hard to remember exactly how I felt in that moment. Relieved, surprised, humbled, and completely in awe of this thing called mothering. Her answer was definitely not one that I had expected at all.
She went on to tell me that I am good at giving grace, that I show her grace when I give her second chances and forgive her. She said that I teach her about what grace is by giving her grace, and then she learns how to show grace to others around her. At this point, I practically needed to pick my jaw up off the floor.
I am such an imperfect person, such an imperfect mother. I fail every day. I yell more often than I’d like to admit. My anger flares up at my children stronger and more quickly than I knew was possible before having kids. And some days I get to the end of the day and wonder if I did anything right.
But then I hear my sweet girl, who unfortunately probably bears more than her fair share of my anger and frustration because she is the oldest and so much like me that she pushes my buttons in all the wrong places, say that one of the things that means the most to her is that I give her second chances, that I give her grace, and I teach her what grace means. Well if that’s not Grace with a big “G” right there, I’m not sure what is.
When Jer and I were fairly new to this whole parenting thing I was of the mindset that we needed to be very authoritative – to get our kids to obey us at pretty much any and all cost. I was complaining to Jer about the fact that our then young toddler daughter didn’t listen to and obey us. And his response changed the direction of my parenting “philosophy” from that moment forward.
He said, “My goal as a parent is for my kids to know that I love them. That at the end of the day, the most important thing is that I love them no matter what. Not that I love them because they obeyed me every time. Or that I love them because they are so well-behaved. But that I love them. Period.
“And then I want to teach them grace by giving grace to them as much as I possibly can. If they don’t learn about grace from us then how will they ever be able to understand and accept the grace of God?”
He was right. He is right. And I am reminded of this on a daily basis as I listen for the Spirit speaking into my life during my interactions with my kids. That still small voice says, “How many chances do I give you, Emily? Do you ever run into the end of my Grace for you? Just as I freely give you abundant Grace, I expect you to give them abundant grace.”
Parenting with grace is not easy. I don’t always get it right. In fact, I probably get it wrong more than I get it right. But when I mess up my kids are so quick to forgive me, to give me grace and second chances. For that I am incredibly grateful.
And it’s in those moments of giving and receiving grace, and hearing from my daughter that she is gaining a deeper understanding of grace, that I think maybe, just maybe, I’m doing something right in this whole parenting thing after all.
I’d love to hear your stories, share with us in the comments about life lessons you’ve learned from parenting your kids!
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