When my firstborn was only 2 years old and some change, she became a big sister. All of a sudden, the nearly undivided attention she was accustomed to had to be shared with a new person in our lives. Most of the time, this was okay with her ...until bedtime. That little, mostly angelic creature would approach me while I was nursing her little sister with the demand to "put that baby down and hold ME!"
We began to get a bit of a routine down and a few months in, I was feeling pretty good about my mothering skills because I had gotten the girls dressed and ready to go; one playing nicely while the other got in a late nap so we could attend a special event together at church. My husband was going to come home quickly to freshen up so we could all get out the door in time to be on time - a luxury for a new mom with a young family.
When I was nearly finished getting myself ready, my 2 and a half year old came to me with what I initially assumed was diaper contents all over her. Greenish-brown yuck ALL. OVER. HER.
That would have been bad enough if that had been what it was - it would have been unpleasant to deal with, but fairly simple to clean up and take care of before Daddy got home and we needed to be ready to jet out the door.
It wasn't poo.
It was paint.
And she wasn't coming to see me with remorse for getting into her father's oil paints. No, she was coming to me with pride to show me her artful masterpiece downstairs.
This child painted walls, carpet, doors, doorframes, and probably the cat!
This presented me with a huge dilemma:
How do I, as a mom, let her know this was absolutely NOT okay, while also not shaming her in the process?
How do I let her know this is a big deal without making it too big of a deal?
She was a smart girl, but she was only 2 and a half!
I honestly don't remember exactly what happened. I do know I was upset, frustrated, and remorseful that I had not kept her closer to me while I was getting ready. I didn't lose my cool and yet I was stern with her to let her know she can't, under any circumstances, play with her Dad's paints. She's always had a tender heart and this little girl got the message loud and clear. While I appreciated her desire to be creative, it was not going to be acceptable to go all Rembrandt all over our home.
She tearfully apologized. I hugged her.
This wasn't the end of the world. It was an inconvenience, but it wasn't such a big deal.
The evidence of her 'creativity' remained until we could tend to it all properly. (We eventually got rid of the carpet with her handprint because there was just no way to get it out.)
I moved on and didn't think much about it.
A couple of weeks later, we were riding down the road, and she had been pretty quiet (which at almost 21 years of age is still uncommon. And, yes, I know she comes by it honestly). Some time went by and her little voice, partly quivering, said, "Mommy, I'm so sorry I got into Daddy's paints."
I was so surprised. I had no idea she had even been thinking about it. She had apologized a few times after it all happened, but I had explained to her that I forgave her and it was all going to be okay. I knew she was really sorry for it and that I loved her just as much after as I loved her before the whole thing happened.
I said, "Amelia, honey, I forgave you for that." I could tell this incident was haunting her. Shame had crept in with its ugly accusations and my little one was not equipped to combat it on her own.
I asked, "Do you know what forgiveness means?"
"It means that I know what you did, and yes it was wrong; but it also means that I'm not going to bring it up again. You are still my Amelia and I'm still glad you're mine. You don't have to be afraid, sweet girl."
How much like a two year old are we at times? Our shame whispers to us that we've never been sorry enough for things we have done...or that bad things happened to us as punishment for ________________ ... or that we should be afraid because eventually the other shoe is going to drop.
Just like I wanted my daughter to understand my forgiveness meant she didn't have to fear that I was going to allow this to come between us, God wants us to know that because we stand forgiven already, nothing we've ever done nor will ever do can stand between us and Him. He loves us! He accepts us just as we are. Our need to repent is not to get Him to want us around again, our repentance is for US because we can't experience His love for us in relationship while we're stubbornly holding onto pride.
Who needs your forgiveness today?
How have you experienced God's forgiveness?
How do you share the gift of forgiveness with your little one(s)?
Word of the Day:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Father, thank you for the gift of forgiveness. Thank you that there is nothing I could ever do to escape your love. Help me to extend the same grace to others. Guide me in sharing this wonderful gift with my children, today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Shelley Hendrix has authored three books, including “Why Can’t We Just Get Along?” which was featured in CALLED Magazine’s Summer 2013 edition as a “Must Read!” She is also the founder of Church 4 Chicks, 2014 Kingdom Awards’ Ministry of the Year honoree, and co-founder of Heart Smart- Counseling, Coaching and Consulting with her husband and BFF, Stephen. Read more from Shelley Hendrix at shelleyhendrix.com