Today, I missed a chance for grace.
My son was in a mood. He’d been in a mood since climbing out of bed at 6:17 a.m., to find the iPad had not been charged overnight. Tears and wailing ensued over not being able to watch Daniel Tiger while eating his cinnamon raisin bagel. I could’ve offered grace. I could’ve calmed him down, distracted him, made up a silly story. Instead, I snapped at him to stop crying, or he wouldn’t get to watch anything the rest of the day. The threat worked – he gulped a last sob or two, but calmed down. But the encounter left both of us annoyed and put out with each other. I excused my behavior in my mind because I was tired – I’d been up several times in the night with Ellie. But the truth was, I missed a chance for grace.
Later on, I was trying to talk to someone on the phone about a work-related issue. I thought I was being smart by attempting the call during naptime. Silly me. No sooner had I dialed the number, then my son comes out of his room. “Mom,” he “whispers” in the loudest whisper imaginable, as only a four year old can. “Mom, I need you,” he says. I give him The Look and point firmly back to his room. “Nathan, I am on the phone,” I hiss through gritted teeth. “Get back in your room, and don’t come out again until 3.”
“But, Mom …” he starts. “No, not another word. Get back in bed now.” And he goes. Slowly, sadly, with one last big-eyed glance in my direction. I finished my phone call, and I’d like to say I then went into his room to see what he needed. But I didn’t. Instead, I cleaned up the kitchen and scrolled through my Facebook feed on my phone. Once he was up from his nap, I sighed my way through three rounds of Candyland and then sent him off to play by himself so I could start dinner. I scolded him for bothering Ellie and fussed at him for leaving his cars all over the bonus room. In every encounter, I consistently chose the confrontational path, and every word I said had an edge to it.
Today, I missed a chance for grace. But my son didn’t.
It was bedtime. Books had been read, teeth brushed, prayers said. We were lying in his bed and he was snuggled up against me, like he likes to do. As I gently stroked his hair, the frustrations of the day began to lift away and the guilt began to sink in. I love this boy more than life itself. Why is it so easy to lose my temper with him?
Maybe it’s because he is particular and detailed, when I am not. Maybe it’s because he likes to take his time, and I’m always in a rush. Maybe it’s because one of the few traits we have in common is our dogged belief that “I’m right.” Why did God give me a child so different in personality than me, who only shares my flaws? Are we set up for battle after battle, always seeing things from different points of view? Our days can’t always look like this; I won’t let them. I want to build him up and encourage him, not chastise and criticize. This was not who I want to be for my children. I felt frustrated and inadequate.
I was near tears, angry with myself for failing this little person who trusts me so completely. And, if I’m honest, a little angry with God, that I have such a hard time relating with my own son sometimes. But my anger was no longer misdirected toward Nathan, and I knew an apology was due.
“Nathan?” I said, tentatively. He lifted his head off my shoulder and smiled at me – a genuine smile that crinkled the corners of his big brown eyes. “What is it, Mom?”
“I’m sorry for not being nice to you today,” I confessed honestly. Nathan’s brow furrowed and he looked confused. “Why do you think you weren’t nice to me, Mom?”
Now it was my turn to be confused. “Do YOU think I was nice to you?” I asked him.
“Of course!” he said. “You played Candyland with me and read to me and you made me what I wanted for lunch. That’s all nice stuff. You’re silly, Mom.”
And with those words, he set me free. And I realized God made Nathan quite deliberately. With my temper, impatience and tendency to speak before I think, I need this child, who overflows with grace, forgiveness and a resilient spirit. I so easily dwell on the bad, but all he sees is the good. He is mine, not because he looks like me or acts like me, but because he helps redeem me. It was a bad day, but I’m not a bad mom. Tomorrow I will do better, be better.
And if I fail, there’s always grace.