“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man,” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
I’m a big fan of forgiveness. Especially when I have to beg my kids for it.
“Are you hungry for a snack?” I wiggled eyebrows at my husband. We’d just settled into the family room for our quiet hour—that precious time of night after kids are in bed and we can talk openly, watch cartoon-free TV, or scan iPads without anybody asking to play Angry Birds.
“Sure.” He kicked his feet up on the sofa.
“Do you think the girls will notice if we eat their cookies?”
“Pffff. . . No.”
I giggled and tiptoed to the kitchen cupboard. Earlier that evening, our daughters completed their fifth and final youth fun run of the summer. Past the finish line, all runners were treated to the usual smorgasbord of pizza, fruit, ice cream bars, and a jumbo cookie from a local bakery. Now after five races, we knew our girls’ routine. They start with their ice cream bars, finish off the pizza, ignore the fruit and stash the cookies in our cupboard for later—where they forget about them until the cookies turn stale and I toss them in the trash.
It’s such a shame to let a good cookie go to waste. The kids weren’t going to eat them, anyway. So hubby and I snatched those delicious oatmeal toffee treats and licked every crumb off our thumbs.
The next morning, my three-year-old climbed out of bed and asked for breakfast. “Mommy, can I have my cookie from the fun run?”
My eyeballs popped in a split second of panic, then I recovered with a smooth mom reply. “No, sweetheart, we don’t eat cookies for breakfast. Maybe you can have a cookie later.” Notice I didn’t say which cookie, exactly. There was plenty of time to whip up a fresh batch before lunch.
Two minutes later, my six-year-old padded into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Mom, I want my cookie from the fun run.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” I faced her straight on. “You can’t have a cookie for breakfast.”
“But where is it? Can I see it?”
“My cookie! I thought about it all night long!”
Bugger! Five fun runs leading up to this moment, and I testify these children did not give a rip about those cookies before today. I had to fess up.
“Girls,” I swallowed hard, “Mom and Dad ate your cookies.”
Their jaws dropped, and their faces distorted into high-pitched heartbreak. “Waaaaah! How could you eat our cookies?! We wanted those cookies! They were OURS! Waaaaaahh!”
Stab me with a spatula, why don’t you.
“Girls, I’m very sorry.” I grabbed their hands. “I didn’t think you wanted your cookies. Dad and I never would have eaten them if we knew how important they were to you. You’re right, the cookies belonged to you, and we were wrong to eat them. Please forgive me.”
They wailed. They thrashed. They dripped tears onto the kitchen floor. For crying out loud, we ate their cookies, not their hamsters! But their little hearts ached; therefore, so did mine.
Then I did what any loving mom would do. I bribed them.
“Girls, I have something better. Will you stop crying if I give you a different treat?” I rushed to the cupboard and pulled out two full-size Hershey bars, intended for s’mores but awfully handy in an emergency like this. They took one look at those chocolate bars and jumped.
“We can eat it for breakfast?” My three-year-old wiped her tears with the back of her hand and grinned.
“Yes!” Mommy guilt hijacked my nutrition rules. “Have at it.”
“The whole thing?” Her eyes grew round and sparkled.
“The whole thing.”
“Yay!” They squealed and tore into the wrappers, and they never mentioned those cookies again. Thank the Lord.
So what’s a mom to do when she blows it?
Confess. Honesty is a core value in our family. In order for my kids to learn it, I have to model it, even when—especially when—it reveals a weakness or mistake. When kids learn their parents aren’t perfect, they discover perfection is not the goal. Honesty is.
Humble yourself. Ask for forgiveness when you mess up. It’s how I expect my kids to behave toward each other, so I should do it, too.
Don’t assume you know your child’s heart better than she does. This one was hard. I know my kids. I study them and nurture them day in and day out. But that doesn’t mean I own their feelings. I had to allow them space to hurt—and to take responsibility for the hurt—even when my grown-up reasoning told me the whole thing was ridiculous. They’re kids, after all. They have childish emotions. And that doesn’t make them wrong; it makes them normal.
And finally, keep a stash of candy on hand at all times. You never know when you might need it. Like the following day, for example, when I threw away my girls’ leftover pudding. Who knew they were planning to feed it to their dolls?
Oh, well. It’s nothing an apology and a handful of Skittles can’t fix.