And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive. Titus 3:14
My in-laws came to visit a few weeks ago. That Sunday morning, we made last minute plans that had us scurrying to get to an earlier Mass. In the chaos, I was the last one down to the car.
To my sheer and utter horror, I saw my thirteen-year-old son, Mason, bucked into the front passenger seat, while his 82-year-old grandfather was making his way to another spot. In my mortification, I tried to hustle Mason out of the front seat to make room for my father-in-law, but the damage had been done. My father-in-law had already side-shuffled through that little space between all the buckets of outdoor toys stored next to the garage wall and the mini-van to get to the middle row. Getting him to shuffle back was too much to ask.
On the drive to church, I kept asking myself where I went wrong, and what other lessons and manners I’d failed to teach my kids. I really thought I’d covered all the bases and taught my kids well. A wave of overwhelming defeat washed over me.
There’s no better place to bring your sense of failure than to God in church. As I prayed my way through the scenario, again and again, He helped me see things differently.
None of us has learned it all, even as adults, and none of us has graduated from life. If we think we have, we risk being stagnant, close-minded and arrogant. We’re always supposed to be learning and growing, recognizing and correcting past mistakes along the way. Our kids are no different.
Rather than compiling a list of all my kids’ egregious mistakes and listing them as my failures, I need to see that list as the curriculum for this new semester of their lives, and mine as their teacher and mom. Rather than berating us both, I need to open my classroom back up and teach the lessons again in a way that sticks. And if they don’t stick, I need to alter my teaching style until they do.
I also need to recognize that some kids test well, and others can’t handle the pressure. If my kids fail a test, I need to create make-up work that reinforces the lesson over and over again, in a less tense setting.
That morning, in the seating arrangement debacle, the chaos of us making last minute plans had us yelling at our kids to quickly get into the car. Mason did what he was asked to do: He raced downstairs, jumped into the front seat, and buckled up. It was the “Respect Your Elders” lesson that he failed.
He and I talked after church about it all. For his make-up lesson, he spent the rest of his grandparents’ visit holding open their doors, carrying their bags, allowing them to go first in everything, and generally putting their needs before his own. That hands-on homework had him ingesting the lesson in a deep, and hopefully, longer lasting way.
Questions for Reflection:
* Do my kids continue to make mistakes, despite my having taught the lessons before?
* If so, how do I react?