“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Psalm 145:8 (NIV)
Last night my little one came up to me to ask me a question and I smelled Thin Mints on his breath. I knew the only Thin Mints we had were his sister’s, ones she has received from a friend. I also was sure he didn’t ask before he ate one. I called him back after he had scampered away with the question, “What did you eat?” His surprised look revealed the fact he didn’t realize his sweet-smelling breath gave him away. He decided the lesser of the two evils was to confess to me, “but I don’t want to tell her…she’ll be mad at me.”
As I sat there explaining about honesty and “I won’t be mad if you tell the truth,” I was suddenly convicted. I’d stolen two Thin Mints earlier that day. I hadn’t confessed either. I had a choice. I could hide the fact I ate them (nobody knew, so why confess now?). Or, I could admit my wrongdoing in front of not just my son and my daughter, but also my husband who was sitting next to me on the chair. Normally not a big deal, but I’d committed to him I would give up all junk food for a set period of time. So I not only stole, but I lied too. Ouch.
I ate humble pie. I admitted to my daughter that I was wrong and had eaten two of her cookies without asking during the day and would she please forgive me. Her response? “Oh, I don’t care. You can have the rest if you want.” Then I explained to my son he needed to admit to his sister what he did wrong and she would probably forgive him too.
I realized three important lessons that night. One, my children deserve as much respect as I do. I would be upset if they took something of mine without asking so I need to give them the same respect. I think sometimes I have the mentality that “we buy it all anyway, so it’s really mine and that makes it okay.” No, we don’t buy it all. Our kids are starting to earn their own money, buy their own things, and get gifts as well. What is theirs is really theirs, no matter who buys it, not an extension of what’s mine. Just as I don’t own them, I don’t own their stuff. They deserve respect. As a parent, I reserve the right to withhold it for a period of time if needed, but I can’t steal it. That’s just wrong.
The second lesson I realized was I can’t hold my children to a higher standard than I hold myself. This piggybacks the first lesson. I need to hold myself to a higher standard than I do them. They’re still learning, as am I, but I need to be further along on the learning curve so I can properly guide them, which means modeling making things right when mistakes are made.
Lastly, I was given grace. Not just from my daughter’s response, but from my husband. I wasn’t belittled or made to feel judged or guilty for eating what I shouldn’t have by either of them. Guess what? Grace feels good! Our son was granted the same grace from our daughter and from us, his parents, when he finally chose to admit his wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness as well.
I love when my children teach me through their actions important life lessons. I’m definitely going to think twice before taking something that doesn’t belong to me. I want to be the best role model I can be…even when I mess up.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014