Well, friends. I may have done something halfway decent as a mama today.
Hold your applause, because there’s ample time left for me to mess up my girls to the tune of thousands in therapy costs, but today…today, I actually paused before disciplining my seven-year-old, Lilah.
Now. If you’ve read any of my other posts, especially Just Wear The Stupid Gym Shorts post, you know that Lilah is not a typical kid.
(Which is what most moms would say about their kid, but I’m a mom. So…yeah.)
Lilah is sensitive. She gets very uncomfortable by serious conversations. She brings up things I’ve said years ago. Last year, her teacher told me Lilah is often afraid to try new things because she doesn’t want to fail.
(Sorry about that one, Lilah. You got the wrong end of the gene pool on that one…mine.)
When I discipline Lilah, I can’t raise my voice, ground her, spank her, take away her iPod. I mean, I can and do do those things, but they’re not effective. She just leaves her shoes in the dang doorway the next day anyway.
What effects Lilah most are conversations. She’s a words person. She won the Wonderful Writer Award in Kindergarten. She devours books like most kids devour chocolate.
But who has time to have a ten to fifteen-minute conversations with a child every time discipline is required? I mean, the laundry isn’t going to wash itself.
(Though I often pray it would.)
Okay, enough disclaimers. Let me get to the story.
Lilah has this hideous blanket that zips over her mattress. Last week, I decided to wash it. Before I could put it back on her bed, Lilah started carrying this thing around the house, leaving it everywhere. Seriously. Everywhere I looked, there it was. I felt like it was stalking me.
This morning, she brought it downstairs before school. I took one look at it and said, “Lilah, take that thing back up to your room. I’m tired of folding it and putting it away. If you don’t, I’m going to throw it in the trashcan.”
The next few hours passed in a blur of emails, writing, diet soda, and meetings. When I finally sat down at my desk after lunch, I glanced across the foyer into the dining room.
Guess what I saw.
Yup. The blanket.
Lilah had hidden it beneath the dining room table. (The picture below post is 100% real. And, yes, I am disappointed by her lack of sneakiness, too.)
With a few hours left before school got out, I plotted her punishment. I was going to make her throw it away. I was going to make her refold every blanket in the house just to see how “fun” it is.
Then I sat down to work on the children’s devotional book I’m writing, and the topic is grace.
While researching how to explain grace to a kid, I came across a story that made me think.
See, Lilah has been asking questions about salvation. I know she’s trying to work out how she fits in with the story of Jesus, and I also know Lilah does not understand the concept of grace. Heck, most days, I’m not even sure I do.
So I decided to do something different.
When Lilah got off the bus, I walked her home and into the dining room. Here’s what happened next.
Me: Lilah, what’s under the table?
Me: Hey, look in my eyes. I’m not laughing about this. What is under the table?
Lilah: (Unsure) My blanket?
Me: What did I tell you to do with your blanket?
Lilah: I don’t know.
Me: Lilah, I told you to take this up to your room.
Lilah: I thought you meant later today!
Me: Then why did you hide it? That tells me that you knew you were supposed to take it to your room, but you didn’t want to.
Lilah: I’m sorry, Mama.
Me: Saying you’re sorry doesn’t change the fact that you were disobedient. AND that you tried to lie about it.
Lilah: Are you going to throw it away?
Me, to myself: AH HA! Proof she was listening!
Me: Lilah, you lied to me. And you disobeyed me. Do you understand that both of those things are sins?
Lilah: (Bursts into tears)
Me: I want you to tell me what you think you deserve for disobeying and for lying?
Lilah: (Crying) For you to throw it away. And for you to spank my bottom.
Me: You know what? You’re right. That’s exactly what you deserve. But that’s not what I’m going to do.
Lilah: (Crying) What? What are you doing to do?
Me: (Crying) I’m going to show you grace. I’m going to take your blanket upstairs and put it back on your bed like you want it. I’m also going to forgive you for lying. And on top of all that, I’m going to make you a bowl of ice cream that you can eat right now—before dinner.
Lilah buried her face in my neck and sobbed. “I’m so sorry, Mama,” she sobbed. “I should have obeyed you. I shouldn’t have lied. Please forgive me. Will you forgive me?”
GOOD GRACIOUS, NO ONE TOLD ME PARENTING WOULD RIP MY HEART OUT LIKE THIS!
Lilah responded to grace so much better than she would have responded to thoughtless discipline.
And more importantly, I had the opportunity to tell her that when we put our faith in Jesus, He offers us grace just like that every single day.
DISCLAIMER: Duh, you can’t offer your kid grace every time they mess up. But we also can’t let our discipline become so rote that we forget the point of it: to teach a lesson, to make our kids better. Not as an expression of our anger—which I am so guilty of doing.
I read a quote today by Paul Zahl that said this:
“Grace is love that has nothing to do with you…Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures…[Grace] has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called ‘gifts.’…Grace is one-way love.” (Emphasis mine).
Love that has nothing to do with us.
We can’t behave our way in or out.
I pray that sinks into your skin and bone and marrow. I pray it sinks into Lilah’s, too.