So there we were, standing on a sidewalk in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A couple in their mid-thirties with three kids ages 5, 8 and 10 struggling to have fun and enjoy a vacation together.
It wasn’t happening.
People were passing us on either side much like water going around a rock in the middle of a stream as we argued over kids not obeying, how much money had been spent, who was chewing too loudly, and whatever else we could get mad about. To be honest, I don’t really remember what we were upset about . . . what I was upset about . . . but boy was it getting ugly (and by “it” I mean ME).
I do remember it was CHRISTMAS. And rather than having peace on earth and goodwill towards men, I was having an all out total meltdown. No seriously, I was losing it. I felt like screaming or throwing something or even hitting something (or someone). Before I knew it I blurted the words, “I’m done. Let’s just forget it and go home” and then I walked away. Yes, I turned my back on my family and walked away (not my best moment).
There are many “not my best moment” moments in parenting. Oh, we strive to be our best, do what’s best, say what’s best—all those best things great parents do—but it’s hard. Parenting is hard. And the more I try to do my best, the more I realize how hard it is.
One thing I learned during this “not my best moment” is that what I do—what you do—after times like these can actually become your best moments as a parent.
I made it about ten steps down the sidewalk and then stopped. My heart was heavy with conviction. I was wrong. And I knew it. As the rage turned into remorse I made the choice to turn around and go back to my family. I had no idea what I was going to say or do, but in those ten steps back I came up with this:
“Guys, I love you. I love Daddy. I love Joseph. I love Sarah. And I love Anna. Mommy was wrong. I was wrong for my attitude and for getting so angry. I want to have fun with you. Do you think we can start over?”
My family responded with a heartfelt, “we forgive you” and, “we love you” and then did something I will never forget. They began admitting their own contributions to the Ward family “moment.” Each one said what they did wrong and asked for forgiveness. They had followed my example.
That’s when I came up with the “wipe the slate clean” thing we do. I told them to pull out an imaginary slate (I explained it’s like a chalkboard, they got it.) and pretend to write down the things they shouldn’t have said or done and then we would pull out our imaginary erasers and wipe them away.
And that’s what we did.
On the same sidewalk where I had my meltdown, we wrote down our wrongs and wiped them away. We had a clean slate. A new start. Another chance to get it right.
“This is why Jesus came, kids. Forgiveness. God knew we could never be good enough on our own so He sent Jesus to take our punishment. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, our slates can be wiped clean. We can have a new heart. Ok, now who’s ready to hug it out and go have some fun?”
It turned out to be an awesome vacation and one of my best parent moments.
My kids are now 13, 16 and 18. We have wiped our slates clean more times than I can count. When things start unraveling in our home, tempers flare and words are carelessly thrown around any one of us will say, “Hey, we need a clean slate. Let’s start again.”
Kids don’t need perfect parents. Which is good news for you and me because perfect is not possible.
Kids do need imperfect parents who are willing to humble themselves, admit their wrongs, ask forgiveness and let it go.
When we do this we give our kids a front row seat to the gospel, the grace of God, Jesus living and breathing right in front of their eyes. Our kids are watching and waiting. Let’s make sure we give them His best.
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12
Autumn Ward has been a writer for The reThink Group’s First Look preschool curriculum for the past 10 years and is the Creative Director for Parent Cue Initiatives. She believes every parent can be a spiritual hero in their child’s life and it’s never too soon to begin sharing God’s story of love with them. Autumn and her husband, Chad, live in Cumming, GA with their three teenage children Joseph, Sarah, and Anna.