A slap in the face

One day, in the not-so-distant-past, I thought parenting involved diapers, lots of “no-no’s!”, following a decent nap schedule, maybe some sleep training, and making sure my kid got enough protein and veggies. I knew (or thought I knew) enough about discipline that I wasn’t anxious about the terrible two’s. I even hated that term because I felt many people waved off unacceptable behaviors because it was just a phase. Phase or not, right or wrong is pretty simple…right? Well. I sure am learning my lesson the hard way.

Whether it’s the terrible two’s or not, my daughter has become bound and determined to push every one of my buttons every moment she is awake….and even when she goes to bed at night.

Don’t get me wrong. Heidi is amazing. She is adventurous and energetic and loving and sensitive and opinionated and can be very sweet. But an attitude I have never witnessed in such a small child has reared its ugly head and I find myself at a loss sometimes for how to react.

Case in point: last week we were at the playground. I warned Heidi we were leaving in a few minutes (several times). But once it was time, she still pitched a fit and decided this would be a good time to hit me…in front of other moms…while I wrestled her into her coat.  I took a deep breath and calmly and quietly let her know she would be getting disciplined for this when we got home.  She pulled away, looked me straight in the face, and slapped me.

She slapped me. In the face. While other moms did their best to pretend not to notice. I am sure thinking they were so glad they weren’t me right then. My face was flaming. I was so embarrassed.

Sass bucket, this one.

Needless to say, it ruined my day. She did get disciplined, and I explained to her why we do not act that way. I did my best (as I do nearly every day) to explain that she has to be obedient to mommy and why it was so important. She nodded, said, “Yes, mommy,” and then actually put herself down for a nap…no diaper change, no books, no drawing the curtains. Just curled up in bed, facing the wall, fast asleep.

I knew I had done everything I could. But I didn’t trust it would stop the behavior. I second-guessed how I handled it, how I explained it, and if my failure to parent her would mean that she will be a mean and unhappy girl for the rest of her life.

Later that day, as I was praying about it, I felt the need to come up with a word for the year (which seems totally unrelated, but I promise, it’s relevant!). I have never done this…nor have I ever been interested in doing this…but the idea alighted on me just as suddenly as the word itself: grace.

Grace. I knew somehow this would be my word and mantra for the year with the certainty I felt when I knew I’d marry Cody or when we named our unseen daughter Heidi.  I didn’t need to ask why I needed a word. I didn’t need to come up with others to try them on for size. It was a fact. Grace is my theme this year.

I need to give myself more grace in everything. In parenting, in marriage, in health, in day to day life. I am a parent, yes, but not a perfect one. I won’t parent Heidi perfectly. I will mess up, I will miss some things, I may overreact or under-react…and I need to accept that I am human, a human who has the help of a God who made us.  I don’t need to beat myself up all day because I may or may not have reacted correctly to Heidi’s behavior. I love her and I ask for God’s wisdom. That is all I can do.

And I need to give Heidi grace. I don’t mean that she doesn’t need to be disciplined. But I need to remember she is a human too…a little sinner with her own quirks and personality traits. And because she is small, she needs to be taught how to use those particular gifts for good and not destructive activities. I need to teach her to build up, not tear down. I need to teach her that she can be obedient while also being ambitious and determined and even sometimes stubborn. She is a human, not a robot…just like me. Sometimes I choose wrongly because I am lazy…or because I think I can somehow escape the consequences… or simply because I don’t care in that moment. Heidi is the same.

At the end of the day, God looks me in the face and says, “I still love you. Tomorrow is a new day. Let’s try together again. I will help you.” I want to do that with Heidi. I don’t want to loose sleep because of the things I may have done wrong or because I’m so upset by the things she did wrong. There is no formula. I want to look into her sweet face each night and let her know I love her, no matter what, and that I will help her do better tomorrow. I want to see her potential, not her mistakes.

Grace doesn’t excuse. It picks us up, dusts us off, and reminds us we have endless chances to be better. It points us to God, the helper, the One who fills in the gaps we can’t possibly manage to fill with our humanness. Where we fail, God triumphs. Where we stumble, God holds firm. Where we hesitate, God stands steady, always ready to pull us up out of the sand and onto the rock that won’t budge.

I am thankful for a daughter that reminds me of this every day.  While I was nothing like her as a child, I still see so much of my own selfishness and sinfulness in her.  With wisdom that only comes with time, I realize I can’t teach her to be perfect. I can teach her to reach for God in her blunders and failures, and to praise Him in all things.

I want to choose grace. I really do. I just wish it didn’t take a slap in the face to remind me to do it.

We actually saw His glory, for out of His fullness we have all received one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift upon gift.  ~John 1:4, 6

“If you want to be really alert to seeing Jesus’ divine beauty, His glory…then make sure you tune your senses to see His grace.” ~John Piper

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