Sunday, March 27, 2011

On parenting, discipline, faith and forgiveness - how I got to show my son the nature of God while revealing it to myself too.

On Friday we had some of Moose's little friends over for lunch and a playdate after preschool. I was upstairs preparing lunch so I didn't witness the incident, but my friend was downstairs in the playroom with the children. And when I called everyone upstairs for lunch, Moose chucked a pretty decent sized toy at his friend's head and hurt his friend pretty bad. All I heard was a crack and his little friend crying, then Moose trying to flee the scene. When I heard it I made my way downstairs and asked Moose what happened and he kept saying, "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry" but in that way that you can tell a person doesn't mean it, they're just saying what they think is appropriate to say. Like when someone asks "How are you?" but they really don't care how you are, it's just the socially appropriate phrase to initiate small talk so you can have the illusion of a social interaction without any real substance. While he was being fake-sorry I asked my friend if her son was okay, and what happened. When she told me what happened I was so embarrassed and really frustrated with Moose. I mean, what in the world??? He knows better! And his poor little friend is only TWO years old and he's chucking big, heavy toys at his face?!?! My son looked up at me and I told him, "That was a very mean thing to do. We don't throw toys and we don't hurt our friends. You're grounded from your Leapster." And I looked down at Moose and I said "Look how your friend feels. What should you do?" and once my boy's eyes really SAW the results of his actions he paused and genuinely apologized to his little injured playmate. Moose's attempt at an apology hug was refused as his friend was too much in pain to leave his mother. We all came upstairs and had lunch and then everyone played together nicely after lunch until our friends went home.

Later that afternoon, Moose asked if he could play his Leapster. And I told him no, because he was grounded from it and I asked him if he remembered what he did earlier. He said "Yes" as fresh tears rose in his eyes. And he looked at me as he blinked and the tears rolled down his fat little cheeks and he said, "But Mama, I sorry." And for a second, I thought about how he would perceive me as his parent if I backed down from his punishment. Would I be flaking out on him as his mom if I was inconsistent? Would he lose respect for my words and decisions if I didn't enforce his punishment?

And then I realized that if I did enforce his punishment, I would be doing exactly to him what I am so grateful that God doesn't do to me. I would be withholding forgiveness even after his confession and expression of contrition.

Is there room for Forgiveness in Discipline? I certainly hope so. If there wasn't, there would be no hope for me, or for any of us for that matter! That's when I decided that I would seize this moment to show Moose what forgiveness is all about. I had an opportunity to show my son a tiny little peek of the kind of forgiveness and redemption that God offers to all of us.

Moose was so sad remembering what he'd done earlier that day. He laid his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around my neck and quietly whimpered, "I'm so sorry Mama. I'm so sorry." I answered, "I know. You don't have to be be grounded anymore because I know you really are sorry and you will try to do better next time." My son flicked his head up towards me with a look of total disbelief across his face. The kid looked like he won some kind of lottery or something but his expression quickly clouded over as his relief faded into a look of worry. He said, "You not tell Daddy, okay? You please not tell Daddy I hurt my friend." I said, "Daddy already knows, but I'll tell Daddy you're not grounded anymore."

Moose said, "I not grounded anymore?" as the sun started rising in his eyes, the burden of his punishment lifted. I said, "Nope. You don't have to be grounded anymore. Do you want to play on your Leapster?"

And my son said, "No."

He added, "I just wanna hug you now."

And that's the story of the day I learned that:
  1. A child can learn more from forgiveness than he can from punishment.
  2. So can I.

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