“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”- Antoine de Saint-Expuery, The Little Prince
“But, Mom, I don’t want to go to bed” said Louie. Now, let’s put this into perspective. This is the same 6-year-old boy that has just stayed up passed midnight the night before playing with his cousins, woke up early the next day and spent the entire day outside at the lake swimming and boating. To end the day, we went to a most delicious cookout with some friends. I’m tired just writing about it. Now, we are on the way home, and of course I’m spent. So, I try preparing him before we get home to make sure he completely understands that I don’t want any lip from him as we get ready for bed. For some reason, in my mind I felt like if I prepare him then he will turn into a little obedient angel child and float quietly into bed without a peep….didn’t happen.
After I told Louie to go upstairs and get himself ready, I hear his little feet plop down the stairs. I turn around, and as he holds his belly he says, “ Mom, my body is so thirsty. I feel all empty in there.” Hummm….this is a total bed diversion. But sure, I’ll bite. “Ok, here,” I say as I pass him a little bit of water in a glass. I put the water on the counter and make my way upstairs to start unpacking. Then, I hear it. The shattering of glass into a tiny million pieces all over he floor. “Louie! What happened?” I yell as I’m racing down the stairs to see the floor glittered with broken glass. He is holding a plastic cup and this was his response to me: Mom! It’s not my fault. That glass was on top of another one, and it broke when I pulled it out of the cabinet.”
“What do you mean it’s not your fault? Whose fault is it then? And, what are you doing even getting a glass? I gave you a glass of water on the counter before I went upstairs?” I say all exasperated. I’m exhausted, and the last thing I want to do is clean up glass from the floor.
“Well, I decided to get a glass of orange juice instead.” Louie says.
“Louie! I gave you water. Why are you getting orange juice?” I asked.
He stands there with his hands like a balance and says, “Orange juice…water…what’s the difference?”
Oh my gosh….I don’t want to get into a huge debate about orange juice and water. I don’t want to get into sugar contents and acidity. My sleepy brain can’t even hold a complete coherent thought. This day needs to be over. I just want to move on. So, I tell Louie he needs to apologize for trying to get the orange juice and making a complete mess. Then it happened….
“Apologize?! Why do I need to apologize? It was an accident!” Louie says as his voice starts to get to a pitch that is only audible to dogs.
“Louie, first I gave you water. Then, you decided you wanted something else without asking. That in itself is not ok. But, then you made a massive mess that I have to clean. I’m tired and frustrated, and I now you have given me something else to do when I just want to go to bed. Even if it was an accident you need to own your mistake.” I say.
“Well, I’m not apologizing for something that I didn’t mean to do!” he says. I could almost see the pride oozing out of him.
Great. Now it’s a battle. I know that he’s tired, but I can’t let this one slide. And, on top of it all, this particular battle I know all to well because I’m the exact same way! This, to me, is a perfect example of generational sin. I am the queen of navigating apologies to where I don’t have to be accountable for my own stuff. I feel like I wrote the book of: It’s Not My Fault, I Didn’t Mean To, and It Was Just An Accident (Let’s Move On). I am totally aware of this, and it’s something I work on…almost daily. And, now, here I am looking at my kiddo and he is doing the exact same thing…geez!
So, I sent him upstairs to “think about it” while I finished up cleaning up the mess. When I went up to talk to him he was rolling around on his bed and talking into his pillow, “I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry.” Yep, I’ve got some work ahead of me.
I sat down, and he started again with all the excuses. I’ve got to give him a way to understand, and then it came to me. He has to feel the way I feel somehow. So, I told him a little story, “ Louie, you love your fish Werewolf, right? (Yes, his fish is named Werewolf….no words here). What would you do if you asked me to take care of Werewolf, and I said sure! Let’s pretend that I don’t know that overfeeding a fish could be bad, and I want to do a good job of taking care of him, so I decided to feed him….a lot! I feed him so much he goes belly up. But, it’s not really my fault. I didn’t know better. How would that make you feel?”
Louie looks at me for a little bit. I can see the wheels turning inside his head. He said, “ I would feel sad that I didn’t have my fish anymore, and I think I would be mad at you for doing that.” This is all true, and he may even plot some revenge against me, too.
“So, even if it was just an accident, wouldn’t it make your anger and frustration go away a little easier if I were to tell you I was sorry for my accident? I’m sorry that I made you feel those ugly feelings? Accidents can hurt feelings, too, right?”
His little blonde brows were all tense, and then they started to relax. Then he said, “So, I’m not really saying sorry about the glass. I’m saying I’m sorry that I made you feel ugly feelings?” I nodded my head. Then, he sits up in the bed, looks me right in the eye and says, “Sorry, mom. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.” Yes!! We have a connection! Battle over….for now anyway.
Why is it so hard to own our issues? Why do we want to blame our problems on circumstances or even other people? We can’t really grow to be who God wants us to be if we are unable to look at our own reflection and see who we really are. What we do affects those around us, intentionally or by accident. There is such power in a repentant heart, and humility is such a Jesus quality. Real relationship thrives on the give and take of forgiveness and repentance.
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. Psalms 38:18