On a good morning, the bananas I give my boys to eat don’t have any brown spots, the color plate they request is clean, the eggs are cooked just past the sliminess stage, their favorite shirts aren’t at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper and every request I make of them is followed with a pleasant and immediate “yes ma’am”.
On a bad morning, you would think the world was coming apart at the seams. The bruised banana sends one boy into tears. The slimy eggs served on a green plate instead of blue is refused by the other. Their favorite shirt is covered in yesterday’s meals. And everything I say feels like a personal affront to their plans for the day. Their attitudes (and mine) are a mess.
And what starts as a bad morning snowballs into a bad day—making me want to retreat completely from the world into an insulated and isolated bubble.
Mornings like the latter have been one of the many reasons I’ve spent a lot of time reading about grace lately. When it comes to parenting, disciplining, bad attitudes and bad days—I could use some grace—to dispense on my kids and on myself.
I came across an excerpt from a book about the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins writes of a Hasidic Jewish tradition that describes a picture I loved. The tradition, as I understand it, says at the time of birth, every human being is connected to God by a rope. But every time we sin, mess up and fail to do what is right—when our bad attitudes become bad mornings which morph into bad days—the rope breaks.
But the tradition says the rope, once broken doesn’t have to stay broken. It can be retied and knotted, again, and again, and again—for as many times as necessary—to reclaim connection with God. And that with each knot made, the length of the rope actually gets shorter—accomplishing the unbelievable. Our rope not only reconnects us to the one we should be far from—it moves us closer.
What if—this tradition asks—our shortcomings, failures, and mistakes, were actually the things that drew us towards God, rather than push us away, allowing us the chance to experience more of Him, not less?
It’s a big question.
What if grace were stronger than whatever threatens to cut the rope connecting us with God or the rope between our kids and us?
What if the rope securing them to us, the rope broken a dozen times every day for a dozen different reasons, was knotted again, and again, and again to draw our kids closer to us instead of disconnecting us?
Grace in parenting means we don’t end the day resigned to the gap a bad day created, but resolve towards mending what was dismantled and reconnecting.
It means the days that start out less than ideal, and end even worse, still allow for our kids to be tethered to us in love, forgiveness, acceptance and grace.
Grace in parenting isn’t natural. On a bad day, it’s more natural to pull away and welcome the distance between us and our kids. But God consistently demonstrates the opposite. God comes closer. God is tenacious and insistent—a lovesick dad who’s affection is not restrained by our sin. Our messiness. Or our grumpiness. He’s relentless in shortening the rope between us.
Maybe we should do the same with our kids.
Because the truth is, there may be no other area in our parenting where we have the opportunity to be more like our heavenly Father than how we handle the hard days. The bad attitudes. The grumpiness. The defiance.
Maybe in what feels like a disproportionate reaction to slightly undercooked eggs, we should be working to draw our kids closer and let them know nothing can sever the rope that ties us to them. Nothing. Not bad behavior and especially not a bruised banana.