Last night, you came to me crying, saying that you broke a rule earlier in the day because you forgot it was a rule. You asked if I could forgive you. I assured you that I would always forgive you when you asked me to, but could tell by the look on your face that this was really bothering you.
“Did you forget or did you choose to disobey the rule?” I asked pointedly.
You looked down and back up. “I forgot. Really I did!”
“Okay. If you tell me that is the truth, I will believe you. But I’m giving you one more opportunity to own your real feelings and motives if you are not being honest with me. Think very carefully before you answer me. Remember how important it is to take responsibility.”
You looked at the floor again and your eyes filled with tears.
“Did you forget or did you choose to disobey?” I asked again.
You burst into tears. “I chose to disobey. I knew I shouldn’t have but I really wanted to and I did it anyway. I’m so sorry. Will you please forgive me, Mama? Please?” You sobbed and fell hard into my arms. I saw your dad’s eyebrows go up as he observed our conversation from behind you.
“Yes, Melody. I forgive you. And I am VERY proud of you for admitting the real truth. That is a really big deal. Admitting your real feelings behind something you did wrong and taking responsibility for it is very mature. I knew you could do it. I feel so, so proud of you right now.” I hugged you tight while you cried a bit more. Then released you as you wiped your tears. “I need to take your iPod until the morning since you didn’t follow the rules for using it, okay?” You nodded solemnly and handed it over. “Will you punish me anymore for this?” You asked in a nervous voice. “No. Because you chose to be honest with me and with yourself, I will keep your iPod until I get up tomorrow, then you can have it back and we go back to normal rules. Do you understand why I need to do that? To help you make a better choice next time?”
“Yes, I understand,” you nodded emphatically. “Thank you, Mama.”
I hugged you again and told you I loved you and you made your way up to bed.
Once the three of you were safely tucked in, I asked your dad what he was thinking as he watched what was happening. “That was a really big deal,” he said without hesitation. “It took a lot for her to admit that.”
I agreed. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I’m so proud that you are starting to learn this lesson. And it makes me feel like I’m doing something right in the midst of all the brokenness where I do things wrong.
A few days ago, we had a notsogood day. A day where you felt powerless and I felt powerless and we both felt angry and I yelled and you yelled and we had to separate to calm down. I was not able to be a grownup in that moment. And I was ashamed of that fact. A little while later, we came back together to talk about our feelings. I explained why I reacted the way I did and you told me what you were feeling. I apologized for yelling and for being so lost in my own “stuff” that I wasn’t able to help you with yours when you needed me. You cried and told me that when I act like that, you feel like I don’t care about you at all. I told you that makes me sad because I love you more than you can imagine. And I apologized for not being a better mother. I told you I wish I was better and more like the mother you needed. You got very upset and we clung to each other and you told me you didn’t want anyone but me to be your mom. We both cried and connected in that moment.
I challenged your recent reluctance to return my “I love you’s” and you admitted it is because you’re mad at me a lot of the time. I asked if you thought I ever got mad at you and you said yes. I asked if you knew that I still loved you when I was angry and you said yes. I asked if you thought it was possible for you to both love me and be angry with me. And I appealed to the fact that you have Jesus in your heart, and that He challenges us to love in the face of anger, sadness and imperfection. You agreed that all of that was possible. I told you that I will not force you to say you love me, but I would like for you to think about what all of that means. You nodded and that was that. It was a really hard day. But we made it through it together, even though it was painful.
I’ve noticed the last few days, you’ve been saying “I love you.” I watch you making a choice every time. And so that, coupled with you owning your own wrong choice gives me a hope I didn’t have before. We’re going to make it. You were made to be my baby girl and I was made to be your mother. For better or for worse. And we are going to make it. Because if you are becoming a person who can be honest with herself about her own decisions and motivations instead of being a victim or making excuses? You are ahead of the majority of adults I know. And I have such respect for you. You are growing and changing and I am proud to call you my daughter. It’s taken me years to learn that owning a mistake is the road to positive change. And you are 9 years old and learning it already.
So I know you are never going to be perfect. . .just like I never will. But I’m yelling less and listening more. And you’re saying you love me even when you’re mad and admitting when you choose to break a rule. We are becoming, we two imperfect girls. Becoming together and becoming separately. And we are learning so much from each other. And I know that Jesus is smiling today because we are choosing to let him make beautiful things out of our brokenness. And I know that much of your brokenness is because I am your mother. But I also know that God has a plan to use both of us for His purposes. . .and that brokenness is a tool that opens the hearts of others to receive the love of Christ. So we will keep growing together. We won’t give up. Because He lives inside of us. And because we’re worth it.