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Excuse Me for Breathing

DSCN0666I don’t know if there is anyone who doesn’t smile at the sight of baby. Fresh and new, unblemished, ready to begin life on earth. We smile at the innocence, the beauty, the miracle.

I think I began my life as a mother in a similar way. Innocent, hopeful, full of wonder and excitement. Of course, trepidation was a common feeling too. “How am I going to manage this ‘mom’ thing?”

As my children grow, I see their experiences molding and shaping them year by year. I take note of their minds and hearts working as they learn to make decisions for themselves. I try to give them helpful counsel as they learn to react to and interact with others. All too often, I wish I could protect them from hurt and difficulty, from the scars I know life will bring. Brought on by those same things I have faced and sometimes continue to face, even as a “grown up”. Sometimes I even wish I could protect my children from myself. From the fears I haven’t faced, the hurts I haven’t quite gotten over, the skewed perspectives I have. I think how nice it would be if I could do the “mom thing” from that same unblemished, perfect state babies seem to have when they enter the world.

Sometimes it takes years to realize something I encountered long ago still affects me … and my interactions with my children. The way I relate and respond to them. Not long ago, I felt hurt by a friend’s attitude toward my kids, and didn’t know why. Then I realized why it affected me the way it did. Years ago I had been hurt by the words of another “friend” who was vocally opposed to my second pregnancy and let me know in no uncertain terms that she felt me and my children were only a burden. The hurt I felt by her remarks remained in a place so deep I didn’t consciously realize it was there.

But it was. I became one of those parents constantly hovering over my children, hushing them if they became too loud, telling them not to disturb this person, and not to bother that person. Yes, it is good to help children grow in awareness of others and to understand there is a good and a not-so-good time to ask for things, but my hovering was borne of fear that I would again face—or worse, that my children would face—someone letting them know they are a burden, an unwanted load.

I was often preoccupied with making sure my children were “good” and “quiet” so they wouldn’t become an issue for someone else. But I don’t want to make the mistake of raising children in fear or negativity. Enough negative and harmful things face my children simply because we live in a broken world. My duty as a mother is to be haven of security, peace, and helpful boundaries. Not to exude an “excuse me for breathing” mentality.

Most of all, my responsibility and privilege is to show them unconditional love. Children are a gift. They don’t need a reason or an excuse. Each child is a treasure with the potential to change the world for the better.

Seeing each day through the eyes of a child can help me remember every day is a chance to start over. Each lesson I help my children understand can serve as an encouragement to let go of past pain and hurt. Every new life ushered into this world is another proclamation that my life can likewise begin anew every day.

Doing the Parenting Thing All Wrong

kid with painted hand

Have you ever realized, one fine morning, that you’re doing the parenting thing all wrong? Not every parenting thing in every way. For me, it was in something that could be considered the most important … because its essence is forgiveness and grace.

I’ve been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. In chapter four, the author states, “[The saved sinner] knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven.” I read that and I thought of one of my children. Just yesterday (and the day before) I had talked with my child about “justifying” … these days, we call it “owning.” Own your mistakes. Don’t make excuses. Only then can you learn from them and move on. You’ll be perpetually stuck in the same place if you can’t admit it when you’ve done something wrong.

It’s all fair advice, but I’ve been going at it the wrong way. “Repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven.” I am reading that book because of grace. The concept, the gift, the wonder that it is.

In my work as freelance editor, last year, one manuscript after another that I’ve edited has touched on the theme of grace. I’ve picked up books at used books sales or at the recommendation of a friend. Grace. I’ve listened to Christian radio, and my favorite bands are singing about grace.

Over the past year, I realized time and again that although I’ve accepted the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for 30+ years now, I never quite caught grace. With every book I read or edited, every song I heard or sang along with, I was broadsided with the epic wonder of grace. Because I so quickly forget it. Gloss it over. Stand on it, forgiven, yet fail to extend it to others.

This is what was doing with my kids. I’ve expected them to first “own” their mistakes or apologize … then I’ll forgive them. Then I’ll be gracious. It’s not like I’m standing over them saying, “I won’t forgive you until you apologize,” but I’m conveying that they need to own it in order to make things right. I’m teaching them to be responsible, right? Not to grow up with the victim mentality that “it’s-everyone’s-fault-but-mine.”

Important, yes … but not vital.

Not vital like the grace that says, “The saved were home before they started,” that says, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Not after we apologized. Not once we pulled up our socks or made a show of shame. He died for us while we were in the middle of the muck and mire of this sin-stained world. And He continues to extend grace every moment of every day.

Every moment. Of every day. I don’t understand it. But it rings with such deep truth that it ripples into eternity.

God, help me to do offer grace and forgiveness to my children, to those around me. I’ll never “get it” because Your grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love are beyond comprehension. But it doesn’t mean I can’t give it to others. Your grace is enough. Always.