Free writing: terrible parenting, tears, tissues, and the true meaning of Christmas

I just had the sweetest moment with my youngest child, the one who hasn’t asked Jesus into his heart yet. The one I’ve been praying for those solid walls around his heart to let love in and bring crashing down …yes, that one. And I might have been the catalyst to almost breaking his heart along with those walls tonight, but for God’s grace.

I didn’t have a stellar parenting day today. I snipped and snapped at my kids. Impatience abounded and my tone and my words were more biting than a wind off lake Michigan in the dead of winter.

I was downstairs at my computer trying to sneak in a little after-dinner work while the older kids were reading and the youngest was in bed. A “sigh of relief” time of day. Until I heard a very loud and suspicious “crash” noise come from the upstairs bathroom.

I sighed and mounted the stairs, my anger and frustration building with each step up. After bursting into the bathroom and asking in an accusatory and totally guilt-riddling mommy voice, “did you need HELP with something?”, two little brown eyes refused to meet mine and a little voice stammered, “I was just going to the bathroom.”

“Ex-CUSE me?”, I spat.

His tenacious eyes met mine and we did the familiar dance of the stare off. Whoever flinched first or broke gaze, lost.

He never broke gaze, but he did finally murmur that something must have fallen in the tub.

I interrogated him ruthlessly, as if I were investigating a murder–my eyes furtively seeking the corners of the tub to verify the information about the shampoo bottle that “fell in” by itself. After verbally circling each other for a few rounds, I finally had him cornered, trapped, where he had to either admit he had done something wrong, or push my button one last time and see if I would crack and flip my lid like I usually did. He chose to tell me the truth… head bowed, eyes firmly planted on the ground, murmuring, “I did it. I pushed it into the tub. I was going the bathroom at first, then I pushed it in.”

I wanted to scream and shout and lecture. That’s my usual go-to “rut”. But strangely, I bit my tongue and thanked him for being honest…although I did throw in the jab of “but if you  need to go to the bathroom, es-SPEC-ially after you’ve been put to bed, you need to go quickly, then go right back to bed, no playing? Right? Do you understand me?” The whole time I was laying on the guilt, I was also cringing because I hated how I sounded, but it just kept coming out.

I put him into bed and told him I loved him, kissed his cheeks, patted his fuzzy head, and affirmed that he was my boy, whom I loved very much. My handsome boy, my helpful Kindergartner, my son, who tells the truth and can be trusted.

I tucked him into his warm bed and left the door open a crack. I scuttled around doing a few last things upstairs, then inspected the bathroom once more to see if he was really telling me the truth about the shampoo bottle or if it could have just fallen in by itself when I heard the sound of muffled crying coming from his bedroom. They were broken-hearted little boy sobs, and they were awful.

I walked back into his room and the room fell silent. “What’s wrong, why are you crying?” I asked. He held his breath and tried to pretend he was asleep.

I walked over to his bed and asked again. Still, no sound, feigning sleep. This time I put my hand on his arm and said his name, which felt and sounded so awkward, because this was a dance we had never done before.

I picked him up, cuddled him in my lap and kept asking him over and over why he was sad? Why was he crying? What is wrong? What’s the matter? My voice getting softer and my own heart breaking a little more with each unanswered question.

My solid as a rock little guy would not crack. I remembered my days of locking myself in a bedroom while my poor, persistent father would stand outside the door cajoling, never giving up, asking the questions over and over, gently repeating my name until I finally let him in and told him what was breaking my little heart. I did what my dad had to do all those years ago, and I kept trying.

Finally, he took a deep breath and inaudibly answered. I had to ask him to repeat himself, and it was still a whisper so quiet I couldn’t hear. “One more time, buddy, I don’t know what you’re saying.” Then the crocodile tears poured out of his eyes and his voice shuddered as he burst out, “it’s because of the bad choice I did”, and wrenching sobs of release ensued.

“Oh, buddy. I forgave you for that, you don’t have to think about that any  more. You don’t need to worry or cry about that because it’s all gone.”

And then…I got to witness to my son. And tell him the story of Jesus, through my own shaking voice and my tears dripping down my cheeks and plopping onto his head.

Trying so hard to use the words he would recognize from church, from our Bibles and storybooks, from our everyday life that would speak to his heart.

It was the most precious moment I’ve ever shared with him. And it was awful, because I started it all with bad parenting and my own “sin problem”. And I had to admit how only about 15 minutes before this incident I had yelled at his sister, I had made a bad choice. Even with Jesus in my heart, I still struggle with my sin problem. But that because I have Jesus in my heart, He helps me realize it when I make a bad choice, He helps me say the hard “I’m sorry” words to help make things right again, and then forgiveness comes and we are made right again. And God… And Jesus… And Christmas…And the Cross…And the Grave…

And after I was all done, he said he was still feeling sad.  I told him it was okay to have sad days, that in fact, I was having a very sad day today, too. I said, “let’s be sad and cry together.” So we got some tissues, and as we began to blow our noses. Then we began to giggle. Together. We blew in funny rhythms and giggled all the more. And the sadness went away with the tears and the tissues.

I asked my son if I could pray for us, and he said yes. I curled him up in my lap one more time, because I don’t know how much longer my fast-growing 6 year old will allow so much snuggling. And I prayed and thanked God for Christmas, for sending His son to take care of my sin problem. For sending me MY son, the one snuggled in my lap that I love so much. And for giving us hope and laughter, and hopefully a good night’s sleep.

And for this and all the words between the line of these words, I am beyond thankful.


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