As a young mom, I was eager to do things differently than my parents did with me. Some things were obvious-some less so. I was listening to Focus on the Family one day and heard Dr. Dobson interviewing Dr. Kevin Lehman. I'll never forget his answer to a simple question he was asked:
"If you could give parents only one piece of advice, what would it be?" asked Dobson. I remember waiting with baited breath to hear his answer. There was a thoughtful pause before Dr. Lehman answered.
"Apologize when you are wrong."
His simple words were profound. They resonated deeply inside me and made an indelible impact. I experienced the kind of flashback of my entire life, commonly reported by those who are in a life-threatening situation. My entire childhood seemed to pass before my eyes void of even one experience of either of my parents apologizing to me. I desperately tried to remember a time when this happened because surely it must have. How could it not? And yet, there wasn't, at least that I can remember. From that moment on, I determined to do it differently with my children.
It started off quite simply, "Honey, mama is sorry for being so angry. This wasn't your fault. Mommy is reacting out of some of my own hurt. Please forgive me." It was followed by years of similar ownership with both my daughters. Sometimes I ended up apologizing multiple times a day, wondering if my words ricocheted off their ears failing to penetrate their hearts. It confirmed in my own heart how broken I was. As much as I did so many things different with my own children, I ended up hurting them anyway. Yes, I broke the cycle of abuse that had devastated my own life, but I wasn't the "model" mother that I so longed to be.
Maybe you can relate. In recent years, I realize my expectations for myself were way out of proportion. I could give understanding and grace to others, but not to myself. I "should" have known better, I "should" have done better, I should have "been" better. I'm still hard on myself, but I'm learning how to embrace my human frailty with more compassion and grace.
My adult daughters would tell you that I apologized often during their growing up years and I continue to do so. I want them to experience their mom as one who was willing to own her mistakes and failures. I want to give them what I didn't have on so many levels, but I'm limited. I realized early on that I can't "do all and be all" they need. But, what I can do, is show them the same love, mercy and grace that I've been shown and trust Jesus to do the rest.