Of all the people in my life who need my forgiveness on a regular basis, the ones who are at the top of the list most often have got to be my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. My kids are generally good, well-behaved, thoughtful, lovable kids. But they are kids, which means they screw up and lie and disobey and get into trouble on a regular basis. Most of the time they’re so genuinely penitent and sweet that they’re easy to forgive. But then there are the days when they’re crazy and whiny and wired and tired and naughty and loud and frustrating all day long. There are days when I go to bed exhausted with the playroom still looking like this because I don’t have the energy either to make them clean it up or to clean it up myself.
When I look at this mess, I don’t find it easy to forgive them. They know that the rule is that you put away one toy before playing with another. They know that the rule is to pick up all their toys before bedtime. They are perfectly capable of putting things away neatly. But sometimes they just don’t do it. And they force me to be the bad guy who orders them to clean up, who stands over them like a prison guard, scowling and scolding, while they whine and plead. And sometimes I resent them for it. Why can’t they just clean it up quickly and be done with it in five easy minutes instead of drawing it out into half an hour of agony on both sides? Why can’t they understand that if they just obey, everyone wins?!??? WHY CAN’T THEY JUST CLEAN UP THEIR BLOODY TOYS?!!!!????
And the answer to that is, because they’re kids. And that’s what kids do. They test their limits. They try to get people to do stuff for them. They shirk responsibility. They whine and they complain. And they need forgiveness for their attitude. But you know what else? So do I. I need their forgiveness for my attitude. I need them to forgive me for my short temper, for my impatience, for my anger. I need them to forgive me for letting them get away with stuff sometimes, which just makes it harder when I do enforce the rules. I need them to forgive me for letting my bad day become their bad day.
And that’s a lesson they can teach me, even as I’m teaching them the same lesson: How to forgive.