I don’t remember the events of the day. They were so insignificant in and of themselves. But after a whole day of minor catastrophes, broken rules and bad behaviors, I had reached my limit. Frustration bubbled right under the surface. By 4:30, when I heard my husband pull in the driveway, I was ready to pop. He opened the door, smiled, and said, “Hey, how was your day?”
It was the wrong thing to say.
The very sight of his face was like an open invitation to release all the negative emotions I’d been harboring all day. In capital letter phrases, I spewed frustration and irritation all over him. There was The Incident at the Grocery Store Which Will NEVER Happen Again and the Diaper Malfunction of Epic Proportion and the Tantrum Heard ‘Round the World. There were No Naps and Potty Training Mishaps and Biting.
Yes, Biting. I paused for a moment so my husband could feel appropriately sorry for me. Also, he needed to hang up his coat.
While I waited, I thought of a few other things I had failed to mention. The very thought of those injustices caused my heart to beat faster. The imprint of anger lingered though the offenses should have been forgotten.
“Maybe we should talk about this later,” my husband said. He didn’t sound at all sorry for me. Exasperated, I turned around. There behind me, listening with eyes wide, were my three oldest children. They had been there the whole time. They were standing right there when I recounted their sins to their daddy, listening to me tattling about their bad behavior and our awful day, listening while I vomited grievances I said I’d forgiven.
No one had to tell me I was wrong. I knew it the minute I saw them. I knew it too late.
Parenting can be downright frustrating. But that gives me no right to air my frustrations to anyone who will listen. It does not give me the right to hold on to anger until my husband gets home and I have a chance to “vent.” It does not give me the right to keep a record of wrongs and apply forgiveness retroactively after I’ve had a chance to update my Facebook status with my current hardships.
Love requires me to treat my kids with more respect that.
“Love keeps no record of wrongs.” How I struggle with that some days! If I don’t keep a record of wrongs, I can’t exact the sympathy I want from my husband who gets to work with adults all day. I can’t earn a friend’s pity, and no one is going to tell me I deserve to indulge myself in a bubble bath unless they know how hard I have it.
“Love believes the best.” It also shows the best. It seeks to build up, not tear down. The things I say about my children or post on Facebook should always be the best things there are to say. In our culture, it only takes a second to post a reproachful comment about your child for hundreds of people to see. It only takes a second to send a tattling text or dial up a friend on the phone so you can vent about the kids you have buckled up in the back seat while you cruise down the carpool lane.
Social media and cell phones were not invented so we can tattle on our kids. It is the equivalent of reciting all their wrongs while they stand there listening just so we can gain some sympathy for ourselves. It is an unequal exchange, and the child always loses.
It all comes down to this: there is never a parenting concern so important it requires me to address it publicly unless I am trying to decide whether or not to take one of them to the ER. Love airs praises in public and addresses concerns in private. Love does not tattle.
Someday, my children will be old enough to read my Facebook history. I want them to feel loved by what they read, not betrayed. Right now, they are old enough to hear what I say about them to Daddy, Nana, and the moms I meet for play dates. Right now, they are listening. What they hear me say about them will tell them whether I am a follower of Christ or a fraud.
What they hear will tell them if I believe what I say or not. If I say I know love but sacrifice their reputations for the temporary consolation of a friend, I do not know love. I say I know forgiveness, but if I harbor far lesser offenses than have been forgiven of me, then I do not know forgiveness at all.
Here I am, a harlot with a wandering heart. Yet I have been bought by the blood of Christ, washed, forgiven, and redeemed. God has every right to boast of His goodness in contrast to my darkness. He has every right to list my offenses in the heavens for all to see. But He does not. He stands before the world and calls me His Bride. His Chosen One. His Beloved. His Child.
My Father delights in me. I think part of that delight comes from the fact that He does not simply forgive my sins; He forgets them. He enjoys me because He chooses to let go of the things that divide us. It is a kind of love that does not tattle. It does not traipse my bad stuff out in public for all the world to see. It does not even rehash it in the living room or at the dinner table. Love allows forgiveness to be the end of the story.
When I tattle on my children and air their offenses in public, I do not feel better. I taste the bitterness of anger. I rekindle my desire for retribution and at least a full pound of flesh. I feel slighted because their little “I’m sorry” is incapable of recognizing how much I’ve been wronged. I cannot delight in my children when I continually cut into the same wound.
Enjoying my children requires me to demonstrate the kind of love and forgiveness I have been shown. If I say I know love, it must be my Father’s kind of love. If I say I know forgiveness, it must be His kind of forgiveness. That is the stuff that binds my heart to theirs and allows me to enjoy them as part of this beautiful redemption.
That is the kind of stuff that is worthy of a Facebook status update.
Please join us tomorrow for Day 15: Fear
For further thought
1) In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul encourages us to build each other up. Listen to the words you say to and about your children today. Are they edifying? Do they build up or tear down?
2) May our prayer today echo King David’s in Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [and the things I post on Facebook] be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” Pray that simple line whenever you feel tempted to tattle on your children today.
3) Activity: Make it your objective to remember the best and funniest things your kids do all day. Write them down (see my Quote Wall for an example), post them on Facebook, and share them with your spouse over the dinner table instead of all the bad things. How does this change your heart for your children? Do you find yourself enjoying them more?