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The Two Hardest Words to Say to Your Kids

ultimate-crying-1563194-1279x907-by Julia Roller

“You woke the baby up!” I snapped at my son.

I had just heard her wail from her car seat and came into the room to see my nine-year-old son bending over her.

It’s a repeated point of contention between us. I am constantly reminding him and his brother to leave her alone when she’s sleeping, but sometimes they just cannot resist her cuteness and stick their faces right in her face and coo at her. It’s sweet, really, how adorable they find her, but still, a sleeping baby…!

That day he protested that she was already awake, but, stressed by her crying and the realization that I wasn’t going to get to any of the things I had planned to do while she was sleeping, I didn’t really pay attention. I just frowned and shook my head at him while I unbuckled her and lifted her out.

It wasn’t until that night when I had a few moments to reflect and engage in my usual practice of the Examen that I realized he was right, that the last time I’d peeked at her before that moment I heard her start crying, I’d seen her open eyes staring back at me.

I owed him an apology.

It’s hard to say “I’m sorry” to your children, At least it is for me. I spend so much of my time trying to establish myself as the voice of authority and role model for them to follow that it feels difficult to step away from that and admit to being fallible. Plus, let’s face it; true humility is hard. I hate to admit to myself how sinful I am, much less to my children.

Yet I think admitting when I’m wrong is incredibly important. I expect them to apologize and even offer a makeup of some sort to each other and to me when they step out of bounds, and I want them to know that I hold myself to the same standards.

I want them to be able to practice forgiveness, to experience Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

It’s also important for my children to know that I mess up, that sometimes I’m impatient and irritable and don’t act in the way I should. To be honest, I’m pretty sure they’re already aware of this. The other day that same son said to me, “Um, Mom, sometimes you get a little cranky.”

He is correct. I do get a little cranky. A lot. But somehow I hadn’t really expected him to notice. And as much as I feel kind of bummed that my crankiness is that obvious, I also am glad he is perceptive enough to notice that Mom isn’t perfect. I don’t really want to be the object lesson that only God can be completely relied on, but yet here I am.

Of course I want to be my best self with my children. So in addition to those two words, “I’m sorry,” I also tell them I will try to do better next time.

Some days I think it’s working, that I am getting a little better. Other days I worry that I’m hopeless.

But one of my favorite things about being a parent is that every day I get a lot of chances to try again.

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