The sun was shining. Blue sky filled the kitchen window. My eight-year-old daughter played in front of our house with friends. I could hear voices, a mixture of laughter and children’s bossiness. Busy with laundry and cleanliness I scrubbed inside while outside wars were fought, princes and princesses declared, and games were invented. Peace reigned in the kingdom, or so I thought.
The front door banged open with such angry vengeance I dropped my sponge.
I turned from where I knelt in a mess of sudsy water, to find Charity, hands on hips, with a mixture of fear and outrage darkening her eyes like thunderclouds.
“They said they didn’t want me here. They said no one likes me. They said we should go back to where we came from,” the words rushed out like a dam had broken. She was spit fire offended.
And then she melted like butter in my arms. Tears the size of Texas raindrops dripped off her chin. Her hair, a flaxen veil cascaded like white milk over her face. Inside that tent her body and soul heaved with sobs.
Fierce mother bear-ness rose in me. I stood on my hind legs and headed for the door.
You all know her. The woman whose kids can do no wrong. The helicopter mom who pilots with steroids. That mom. I can be her. I have been her.
I’ve learned a few things along the way.
- Make sure you know the facts. There are two sides to every story. A parent is seldom an impartial judge.
- Use tough grace. Assume the best. Until proven guilty. Then adjust. Make discipline and consequences fit the crime.
- Give distinct irrefutable boundaries. Disobedience, disrespect, cheating, and lies are over the line.
I stormed out of the open door to Charity’s defense. Charity had been bullied before, but I was going to make sure it didn’t happen again. I’d had my fill. My cheeks flamed red. My heart pumped fast. My palms sweated. Kids can be scary.
As I approached, the happy play petered into whispers and awkwardness. “Oh-oh. Here she comes!” measured my bold steps. I stopped in front of them. I crossed my arms. Three wide-eyed faces looked up at me, expectant, waiting for my words.
“Why did you tell Charity you didn’t like her and didn’t want her here?” the Mother Bear demanded.
They drew together, forming a fortress of three in front of me.
“Because she said I was stupid, and said I couldn’t do the game right,” her friend with the short black hair and snapping brown eyes accused.
“Yah,” another nodded, “she started it.”
“She said she didn’t want to play with us anymore, and she pushed me and left,” the third little girl added.
Like a soda can seeping out fizz, my mother-bear-ness deflated.
My not-so-angel child had been the issue.
Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” (NASB). Solomon wasn’t called the wisest man for nothing, and had I listened to his advice first, I would not have been standing there with my arguments like a discarded grizzly rug pulled out from under me.
The other side of the story only vaguely resembled the original. It came out layered with interjections, one voice on top of another, and my daughter did not win the three against one round. Clearly, my daughter had some ‘splaining to do.
When the story finished, I let out a big sigh.
“I’m sorry that happened,” I said. “I’ll talk to Charity.”
I walked back to the house, looking at my feet all the way.
The door was still open and when I entered, Charity searched my face. Guilt shifted her eyes downward. She knew she’d been wrong, realized I knew it too, and truth spilled out like a torrent. She regretted her rash words and actions, but regret and contrition aren’t the same thing.
In the Bible, the word “repent” means to change direction and “confess” to agree with God. A contrite heart is crushed with the sorrow of doing wrong, not just wishing things could be undone. Contrition brings humbleness which turns one from sin, and sets the direction for confession.
True repentance can’t be coerced, but it can certainly be encouraged. When children are taught to define clearly what they did wrong, sorrow for sin will grow, and the heart is engaged in the process of changing direction.
“You need to apologize,” I said.
She cried and dug in her heels. She argued. But, in the end I walked with her out the door and she confessed to each specific wrong she’d done. It was hard and it hurt.
Mother-bear-ness is an instinct that’s hard to tame, and fierce loyalty is part of the gift of motherhood. Managing it is an act of God in a mom’s heart. Valuable lessons don’t come easily for either parent or child, but the rewards of a contrite heart are priceless.
By: Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at Avant Ministries. She and her husband raised four children in Italy and Germany, where they were missionaries with Avant. Their children are all married and they have twelve grandchildren. Visit her blog, When the House is Quiet, at sylviaschroeder.com.
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