I always find myself apologizing to my oldest child and explaining to him that he’s basically our “training wheels” for the other children. He laughs at this, but yesterday we were recalling some of his toddler and preschool years, and I found myself apologizing all over again.
When he was about 5 1/2 years old, I found some letters scratched into the hood of my minivan. The first letter happened to be the first letter of his sibling’s name. I confronted his only other sibling who could write at that time. She adamantly said it was not her, and she really wasn’t so great at writing legibly. I went back to my oldest child and asked for the truth, please. He adamantly said it was not him.
However, he had lately become obsessed with rocks and writing with rocks, and this looked clearly like the scratching of a rock. Also, you had to be pretty tall to reach that far up the hood of the car. All facts were pointing towards my son. I started drawing a line in the sand. I mean, really? This was lying! And as a parent, I felt I needed to nip this in the bud. My son would not budge. He did not care what the penalty was. Being a brilliant parent, I just kept raising the bar. He knew that I always follow through, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. Finally, my husband arrived home from work.
I explained the whole situation to my husband. He agreed with my thoughts and course of action, and backed me up as he has always done. (Thank God! I haven’t always been as wise as my husband, but that is another story…) My son would not come clean. So, the wise parents slammed him by taking away additional privileges. His behavior became unbearable. The next day was like living with a crazy person. Our extreme measures had created a beast!
I turned to a wise friend and explained the situation. She immediately said, “Now, this is your chance to show him what true grace is!” I said, “But, but, but…” She said, “You have set him up to have no way to win, so he is just acting out his total frustration. You are right, he is wrong, but he definitely isn’t learning the lesson you wanted him to learn. Can you see that?” “Oh yes, I can see that,” I replied. She suggested that we offer him grace. Just like Christ died for our sins on the Cross without us deserving or gaining this, we would take away his transgression without him deserving it.
My husband and I called our son into the room by himself that evening. We brought up the minivan hood and the fact that he lied about it. He began to look very upset. We told him that we wanted him to experience real grace. We told him that we forgave him for all of it and wouldn’t mention it again. It did not matter how or why it happened and all his privileges were restored. We loved him and wanted to give him undeserved grace, just like Jesus gave us when He died on the Cross for our sins.
I have never seen such a lifting of spirit! He immediately became a different little boy. His whole self just seemed to expand and glow. He gave us giant hugs and ran off to play.
We hadn’t spoken about this for almost a decade. When it came up yesterday, he said that he had written on the minivan hood. He also said he could clearly remember the meeting with us and the feeling of the gift of grace. I guess we managed to recover pretty well from one of our many parenting mishaps!