Our children will fail us. They will be willful and stubborn. They will be disobedient and defiant. We will fail our children. We will expect too much. We will be demanding and unforgiving. The fact is that nobody is perfect. Why do we do this? Why do we expect so much from those that we love? I think that it is because we see in them the potential that they have. I think that as parents we do this, maybe a lot (?). There was a time that we were going through a very difficult time with one of our children and I was beyond frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, and hurt. I went to confession to one of the best confessors ever and poured my heart out. He listened and looked very thoughtful and said the one thing that I needed to hear. He said, "Your child needs to know that you love him/her no matter what." I was kind of indignant. Of course our kids know that we love them. But he continued. " He/she needs to know that if they never get through this and continue to behave in this way until the day that they die, even if this is ultimately what kills them, you will love them." Wow. We love our children. That is an absolute. Even in the middle of the hell that we were going through with this child, I never doubted my love for him/her. But do our children know, I mean really know that our love is not contingent on their good behavior? We say it, but do they believe it? I would hope so, but sometimes in the middle of badness, maybe they need to be reminded. Maybe we, as parents, need to be reminded of that too. You don't always have to like your kids. You won't always like them. Trust me. I know that it sounds bad, but they are only human, and my dear friends, so are you. Our feelings get hurt. Our pride takes a hit. They are so stubborn and just won't listen. And sometimes we are just so stubborn and won't listen either. But you will always love them and that is what makes it so difficult. They will hurt your heart in ways that you couldn't imagine, not in spite of your love for them, but because of it.
In my relatively short time as a parent, I learned early on that we must pick our battles. Is it worth the frustration to fight with a toddler over mismatched shoes when you aren't going anywhere? Is it ok to occasionally give in and give them a treat despite the fact that what they deserve is a time out? Is it worth the battle to get your teens to make their bed before they leave for school? Is it worth the anxiety it causes to remain silent when an all out war hastaken over because a certain teen refuses to apologize for something that was very much their fault? The answer to all of these is, sometimes, yes. Sometimes you just need to give in. Sometimes you need to be the one to break the silence. Sometimes you need to forgive, even if they don't deserve it. It isn't being weak. It isn't being a wishy-washy parent. It is being a good parent. It is teaching mercy. That is pretty much what mercy is, right? It is basically forgiveness even if you don't deserve it. That is not to say that we don't punish our kids when a punishment is warranted. Of course we do! Otherwise we would have a houseful of self-absorbed monsters. But it is to say that if all that we do is to punish away every bad thing that our kids do, when can we teach them about mercy and forgiveness? When can we teach them about sacrifice? Sacrifice isn't only about giving up things. Sacrifice can also be about giving up a little bit of your pride. It can be about your ego taking a hit. It takes so much more energy to stay angry. (Trust me I have tried.) And honestly, the forgiveness and mercy is a grace to us as well. We need to teach our children about forgiveness and mercy. We need to teach them about sacrifice. When we need a little reminder of exactly what that means, we need only look at the crucifix to see the ultimate act of sacrifice and mercy.
So, I say, let them wear two different shoes, give them dessert when they haven't earned it. Give them the second or third or fourth chance. Don't look at the messy room for a day. Break the silence. And most importantly...be merciful.
Ok, I'm done now. Someone needs to remind me of all of this the next time I am in a battle with one of my own. Thanks!