There are certain special moments that young parents experience with their young children. There are first words, rolling over for the first time, first steps, and first days at school. There are so many milestones packed into only a handful of years that if you’re not careful you can get an almost historical whiplash that leaves you wondering where time went. One summer day when I was relishing the joy of being a stay at home mom to my 3-year-old and 1 year old daughters, a “first” happened without any warning. As I was preparing lunch one afternoon I heard the familiar cry of my youngest bellow out of the living room. I went to find out what was going on and I saw my oldest daughter standing above her with her hand on her hip in a very 3-year-old diva pose. For the first time in my young mom life, I uttered the words that would become a mantra for the next two decades. I asked with hopeful anticipation, “Rebecca, what happened?”
Three-year old’s have a style of storytelling that can only be described as “brutally honest.” Without hesitation, without the need to set up the situation, and without even a hint of regret in her voice, Rebecca answered, “I hit her.” I scooped up my youngest and comforted her and proceeded to ambush Rebecca with a barrage of questions about why she would do that. I found the answers dismally unsatisfying and begin to realize I had some real parenting work to do, so I turned to Rebecca and said to her, “You need to tell Shannon that you are sorry.”
What happened next began the first standoff of my parenting relationship with Rebecca. She said “No.” So, in perfect self-righteous indignation, I pulled a small wooden chair from the kitchen, sat her in the middle of the living room and told her she would sit there until she apologized. In complete silence, she sat. She sat while Shannon and I had lunch, sat while I folded the laundry, sat while I cleaned the bathroom, and dusted the bookshelves, and got the mail, and began to prepare dinner. She sat. After watching her sit in that wooden chair for six hours, I finally couldn’t take it and I asked her “Why won’t you say you’re sorry?” and her response was simple, “I’m not ready yet.”
That day I began to think about all the impulsive apologies I had given over the years. All the responsive liturgy I had given when I knew I had wronged someone. I was always so quick to apologize. So quick to sweep the offense under the rug and so quick to just want to move on. I wanted the words “I’m sorry” to be historical whiteout. What I know today is that being sorry entails so much more than two simple words. Being sorry means an acceptance of what happened and the consequences of your actions.
Today I pray for sincere apologies and that I’m able to see how my wrongs affect others. I pray that God will give me a spirit of true repentance and that I will invest in making that a reality in my life. I pray that I will be given the grace to accept apologies and that God will continue to band aid the consequences of sin and hurt. That day so many years ago marked many firsts, the first time the girls fought, the first-time Rebecca emphatically told me no, and the first time I made a three-year-old sit in a chair for 6 hours, but perhaps the most important first is that I realized that God was using everyday life to speak to me. And God…I’m listening.