I must have stood at the threshold of my teen’s bedroom door for a good 5 minutes trying to decide my next parenting move.
With one foot in and one out, I felt like I was at a crossroads.
It turns out I was.
I was angry. I was hurt. I was tired.
It had been a rough few days with an on-going, not-yet-settled battle of wills. The argument started because I wanted my child to submit and my child wanted me to back off. But there was so much more in-between, unspoken and spoken-too-loudly: misunderstanding and hurt, both of us too stubborn to give in.
But when we hold out to win against our children, someone always loses.
With my kids at school, I stood there thinking about the harsh words we’d tossed at each other and I hated the memory. I was an expert at being right and standing my ground, but this battle raged and all of a sudden the fight drained out of me. I took a deep breath.
When I looked past the bad attitude, the messy room, the arguments, I saw a stressed out kid. My teenager was overwhelmed. I saw a younger version of me.
And I thought about the one thing I need the most when I’m at my worst: grace.
The word hit me hard because grace was the very last thing I wanted to offer my stubborn kid. Yet I knew it was the thing we both needed most.
I crossed into the room. There were clothes scattered and piles of papers all over. The bed was unmade and the laundry hamper overflowed and well, the room was a mess– a lot like me.
I did the last thing I wanted to do. The last thing I planned to do: I humbled myself and I served my child. For the next couple of hours, I cleaned and washed, folded and prayed for my kid. I prayed for peace and joy and grace. I closed the door when I was done. At some point on my knees thinking about someone else, my anger and hurt faded.
Because I think we all know this really isn’t about a messy room or bad behavior–it’s about our messy hearts needing tenderness and second chances.
Sadly we picked up the fight where we’d left off later that day and I wondered if my sacrifice of pride and time had mattered. But then my teenager went upstairs and immediately came back down and stared at me in wonder, my heart pounded.
I followed upstairs and these words cut me to the core, “Why, Mom? Why would you do this?”
Because I see you. I see how stressed and overwhelmed you are with life and school. I did it because I want you to know this is how I feel about you. I love you enough to see past our differences and disagreements–I see you enough to serve you.
The ice splintered when my child whispered thank you.
The days and weeks that followed were filled with some pretty amazing conversations and a deep understanding that love cost us both something. And it’s a sacrifice worth making.
I’ve witnessed the same mercies again and again with my children when I’ve given them what they needed instead of what they’ve deserved. When our kids are behaving badly and acting out, yes, sometimes they need discipline, but maybe a little one-on-one attention is what they really want. When our kids are irritable and angry, yes, the might need to be left alone, but maybe the are just really dying for someone to ask why.
I believe God often reveals himself to our kids through us. They first know of His love because we love them. They know of His forgiveness because we show them forgiveness. They experience His grace because we offer it.
Parenting keeps us humble. Just when we think we’ve got one situation figured out, another one demands our attention. Godly parenting is a recipe of consistency, a dash of strategy, a dose of wisdom, limitless love and more grace than any of us deserve.
When we can respond to our children’s greatest, often unspoken need, instead of react to the current misbehavior or disobedience, growth happens for both of us.
And sometimes the best parenting move is the last one we want to make.