Everyone tells you that having kids will change everything. I have certainly found that to be true. I have had to shed my me-first mentality and care for the needs of others before myself (sometimes instead of myself, though not always successfully – selfishness is ingrained deep in us). I have changed occupations, developed a new group of friends and relationships, thought a lot more about the future and what is in store for me and my family and grown deeper in my faith.
One thing that has been forefront most recently is how much my words and behavior are noticed and imitated by my children. Some days I will listen to them playing together and they will pretend play that they are a family and one is the parent while the other is the child. They will parent like we have been parenting them. Sometimes it is sweet and reinforces that I am doing a good job. Other times, it is a gut check and reminder that my words are powerful and they are sponges soaking everything up.
My son is very active, often on the go. When I want him to pay attention to something I am saying (because I think it’s important) I’ll tell him to look at me (and sometimes turn his face to mine) in the hope that he will soak in more of what I’m saying. Now, I hear the kids saying “look at me” to each other during pretend play when the “child” is “in trouble”.
This past week I was confronted with an inconsistency in my integrity. While out with my kids I experienced a situation that caused me shame and embarrassment. It was a combination of a lapse in close supervision and kids being kids. Nothing dangerous, but I panicked and we left rather than dealing with the situation. I chastised my kids when we got to the car but realized later that I was really angry with myself for not paying closer attention. I wrestled with feeling guilty all evening until finally I prayed about it. Through prayer I was able to work through my feelings and realize that it was not too late to apologize to those I had wronged and make amends for the situation.
The next morning I confessed the whole story to my husband (because shame was telling me to keep it quiet so that guilt could continue to hound me). I then spoke to my kids about what I did wrong and what I should have done. I apologized for speaking unkindly to them. I stated what I was going to do to try to make up for the situation. (Now, my kids are only five and two and I don’t know how much the oldest took from what I said because I know the two year old didn’t care, but perhaps it planted seeds in her for the future.) Later that morning I returned to the scene of the situation, acknowledged what I should have done and apologized. It was sooo hard and uncomfortable but I felt that it was what God wanted me to do. The person I spoke with was so gracious and kind to me. He accepted my apology and said that he appreciated my efforts. He said it was a sign that I had a good heart. I almost cried at his kindness.
The best thing that has happened through all of this is that my guilt is gone! Yes, I could have owned up right at the moment (and obviously there is still growth occurring in this area but I also know that, in the past, I would not have owned up to my mistake and tried to make it right) but God used it as an opportunity to remind me that it’s not too late to humble myself and apologize. It was an opportunity to teach my children that we all make mistakes (and they will hopefully also choose to try to correct them). My response will help to equip me for future situations that may arise. Hopefully the next time I begin to feel shame or embarrassment, I will stop and consider the best choice. Perhaps I’ll develop a habit of responding with integrity so that my kids will learn the proper way to handle difficult situations.
“Train up a child in the way he should go;
and when he is old he will not depart from it.”