The Paradox of Parenting

I walked out to the car with my son on the way to his swim practice. It was raining a little. Pattering drops fell around us as we exit the garage to get into my 2006 Honda Accord.

I asked him, “Buddy, did you check the mail today?”

He replied loudly, “Yes.”

“You did?” I asked again.

“Yep.”

“Good job.”

I opened the door for him and as he got in I asked with a tone of displeasure, “Where’s your jacket?” He never wears a jacket voluntarily. I sometimes think he would go out in the Pacific Northwest rain with just a t-shirt and flip-flops if we didn’t make him wear more.

He answered, “I didn’t bring one,” while he crawled into the car.

I closed the door on his leg before he had completely gotten into the car.

He yelled, “OWWWWW!”

“Oh, you okay?”

“Noooo.”

“Oh, gosh… Sorry, buddy.”

“Where’s my flip-flop?”

I picked up his flip-flop from the driveway and toss it to the floor, my momentary concern turning to scolding. “You just need to get in the car. I don’t know what you’re doing getting in that way.”

“Where’s my flip-flop?” he asked again.

“It’s on the thing.” As I closed his door and forgot the word, floor, momentarily.

I opened my door to get in and my vocabulary came back.

“It’s on the floor.”

I follow it up with some empathy and a really bad dad joke.

“Is your leg okay?”

My son answered a little annoyed, “Yes!”

“We don’t need to chop It off?”

I start the car and off we go.

All of this happened just like described. I can prove it. The video has been provided here your viewing pleasure if you have any doubts.

Failure as a parent doesn’t come easy to me. I mentally know that perfection isn’t expected. I mentally know. But I spiritually and emotionally struggle with it every single day. While the episode above probably isn’t going to scar my son for the rest of his life, I am keenly aware that I yield a powerful influence in his life. I try not to take that lightly.

Here is the paradox for me though. In all my relationships, past and present, I have learned the most about grace and forgiveness from my son. He has seen me at my worst and if the number of times that I’ve apologized to him were displayed as a counter on the internet I would be in hiding due to my shame. I have wept tears over my inability to demonstrate gentleness in the moments that he needs it the most.

In this episode, like so many previous ones, my son was able to put aside my offense and quickly return to interacting with me as if nothing happened. He didn’t give my any attitude during the car ride. He didn’t get grumpy or sulk or even mention the incident for the remainder of the evening. The amazing thing is, this has always been his pattern. He truly gives me grace instead of what I deserve. If only I could be so quick to forgive and to forget and to extend the unmerited favor that I receive from him to others. My son is my hero. His is a real-life Jesus in my life.

When I became a parent, I believed that it would be my responsibility to teach my son what it means to live with grace. I would demonstrate for him in many ways how to forgive others. But in the great scheme of things, God, in his infinite wisdom (and humor) has ordained that I should be the student and my child, the teacher. My immaturity in love would be exposed by the maturity in which my child easily forgives me and forgets my offenses.

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11 NIV)

God, thank you so much for the gift of my children. You are kind to me by showing me daily your love and grace through them. Help me to love and protect them but to also learn from them. I wish that I could easily forgive those that offend me. I want to know what it means to be so secure in your love for me that I can practice a life filled with grace.