When this sweet little apology note arrived in my mailbox, I was very confused.
At first, I could just decipher the first line – “I am sorry” – and I could not for the life of me figure out why this sweet little boy – the son of a dear friend of mine – was sending me an apology note.
When I read closer, I realized the words following said, “I am sorry (Nicole) for scraping your car.” (Love that giant circle for the period at the end!)
Why is he apologizing for scraping my car?
What is this about?
It took a minute, but I finally remembered being at their house a few weeks prior, standing in the driveway chatting. This sweet little guy was running around with a stick because, what else do boys do, really, but run around with sticks? His mama told him to be careful with the stick and not put it near my car. And then he did exactly that – put the stick very close to my car.
Now, I don’t remember if the stick actually touched the car or not. What I DO remember is his mama having a heart-to-heart with him about listening and following directions and being careful with other people’s cars, the same as I would. Actually, probably not the same as I would because, truth be told, if it had been my child who had the stick, I would have been MAD. I can be stern with my kids, and I can make small things feel like a VERY BIG DEAL. But my friend remained calm and her words remained kind in a way that I’m not sure mine would have.
When I got the card in the mail and realized I had forgotten this completely, I also realized that if it had been my child, I would NOT have forgotten it completely. I would have stewed about it for days, thinking about WHAT KIND OF CHILD POKES A STICK AT A CAR, FOR GOODNESS SAKES?! IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF MY CHILD’S PATH TO DELINQUENCY AND A LIFE OF CRIME?!
But for me, with it being her child, it was just a moment. A tiny little thing that left almost no impression on my memory whatsoever. Forgiven and forgotten instantly. Because I know this boy – a sweet, funny, inquisitive, curious boy who would never actually scrape a car just because. He was just a kid, being a kid.
And guess what?
So are my children.
What a lesson this was for me, a change in perspective. To take a step back when my kids do something that I don’t approve of, even when they break a rule. Instead of feeling like it’s the end of the world and being unable to let it go, I can ask myself what I would think if it were another child, not one of my own.
Would I think less of that child? No way.
And – maybe more to the point of how I truly feel when my kids misbehave – would I think less of their parents?
Of course not.
We put so much pressure on ourselves as parents to raise these perfect children who navigate every situation in the correct way. We think we must react to every infraction in order to teach “valuable lessons” so these kids do exactly the right thing and turn out okay.
But we are imperfect people, too. I know I DEFINITELY don’t navigate every situation in my life in the most correct way. (And news flash: most of the time, there isn’t ONE correct way.)
I mess up all the time! I need to say sorry freely and often. And I want to teach my children to do the same. I want them to know that when they do mess up, I am a safe place to come, to tell the truth and to receive grace and, yes, sometimes instruction, but always forgiveness.
Our children are precious little people who are learning to walk in this world and figure things out for themselves. They have been entrusted to us to guide, yes, but also to enjoy, to delight, and to have relationship. They are OUR PEOPLE.
This came back to me a few weeks ago when we had friends over for dinner.
The adults were on the back porch while the kids were running around – girls inside playing dress up and reading, boys up in the treehouse. At one point, I look up because I see a solid stream of liquid coming down out of the treehouse and into the yard and over the fence into our neighbor’s backyard.
Of course, if you have boys, you know exactly what is happening. I assume it’s my child and feel myself start to get upset – what will the neighbors think when they see that my kid is PEEING INTO THEIR BACKYARD??? Then I realize that it is just as likely the other child taking aim (both of their backs are to us), and just the thought of him deciding that this is a good idea CRACKS ME UP. The dads, of course, laugh immediately, saying that this is so normal, it’s just a thing boys do, we knew kids growing up who did this all the time. (“I have this ‘friend’….” Ha!) The guys then talk to the boys, telling them, of course, that they shouldn’t pee from the treehouse, especially into the neighbors yard. And all the while, I have to cover my face to hide my chuckles and laughing tears. And this was just seconds after I almost made this into a VERY BIG DEAL.
(Come on, it IS pretty funny!)
Now, obviously I’m not suggesting we let everything go because “kids will be kids”, but I am suggesting that we – that I – take a step back and take in the bigger perspective. I have to guide and teach my kids. But I also have to show them the beauty of grace and of forgiveness and of the freedom that comes with knowing that their parents love them unconditionally and can handle whatever comes their way.
Because not everything is a VERY BIG DEAL. Sometimes it’s just boys peeing from a treehouse.