Last week, I attended the parents information session at my son’s school on an upcoming sacrament he and his class will be receiving. My son is attending a Catholic grade school, and this year he will be making his first Reconciliation. When I was young, we called it first confession or pennance. Either way, it’s the first time young Catholic children confess their “sins” and ask God’s forgiveness.
I listened as the priest told a long-winding story, and started to think about forgiveness and grace and how we teach them to our children. Whatever I might think about the Catholic Church (which is left as another column for another time), I do believe the act of forgiveness, divine or otherwise, is one of the most loving things we can do for one another.
To teach children how to really be sorry, you also need to teach them how to forgive. It’s ok to say we are sorry to our children, and admit when we make a mistake or aren’t being our best self. We parents don’t have to pretend we’re perfect. In fact, I believe that admitting that even we can make a mistake and then learn from it is another way we set an example for our children.
I certainly know I am not perfect. but I have made it one of my personal goals to always say I am sorry when I have acted as less than my best self, and through my action or inaction, have hurt another person. I think it’s important to show my children that there’s nothing I’d ask of them that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. If I want them to be capable of saying they are sorry and admitting mistakes, then I have to show them that I can and will do the same.
The night before this parent meeting, I was home with the kids from another rough day at work. My husband was staying late at work. I was trying to get dinner made quickly so we would have time for bath and shower before bedtime and also trying to help my son with his homework at the same time. There was a lot going on and I was barely keeping all my figurative balls up in the air. My son started to get distracted with his reading assignment and was having a hard time concentrating. Instead of stopping what I was doing after the fourth (or was it fifth) time he asked me the same question and the fourth (or fifth) time he didn’t listen to my answer, I raised my voice. I didn’t yell, but I didn’t continue to speak in a normal volume. I loudly gave him the answer to get his attention.
I was immediately sorry I’d done it. I wouldn’t want someone to raise their voice with me just because they were frazzled, and I shouldn’t allow myself to do it either. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I stopped what I was doing, knelt down so that I was eye level with my son, and told him I was sorry I had raised my voice, and asked him to forgive me. I didn’t try to explain why I was frazzled or what my state of mind was. I simply told him that I shouldn’t have raised my voice and I understood he was having trouble with his homework. He forgave me and we moved on.
I wish I could say that I am always the best parent I can be. I am human, and sometimes I fall short. I am, however, always trying. Hopefully, it is the always trying and the constant working to reach my best that matters in the end. Hopefully, in teaching my son that I can seek forgiveness as well as grant it, he will understand that saying “I forgive you” is even more important than saying “I am sorry.”
Every day we teach our children through the example we set. They watch how we react to life, to our mistakes, to everything. I hope that even my examples of being human and making human mistakes help my children to be the best people that they can be.
by Rocket Science Mom
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Photo graciously provided by Jim Forest, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved