We raised one of “those” kids. You know the kind of child I’m talking about, the kids we all secretly hope we don’t get as parents – the children who get into everything and seem to always be in trouble or pushing the limits. Yes, we had one. She was challenging from the beginning. She cried a lot; she cried every single time she was put in the car seat, starting with her first car trip home from the hospital. And she cried each time after as well, until she could sit up and look out the window. She was in constant motion; she crawled up on everything and took things apart. We had to watch her constantly. Once she spread Crisco shortening all over the kitchen. Another time she emptied the liquid soap on the bathroom floor then mixed it with water in order to “clean” for me; it took my husband and me 45 minutes to mop it all up. She hit me when I put her in a timeout, bit me when she was frustrated, broke more than her share of dishes, and picked every one of my prized daffodils the spring she turned three. She kept us busy!
I loved this child anyway. Her name is Lisa and she’s now 23. When we tell stories about what she was like as a little girl, Lisa looks sheepish, laughs, and apologizes for her early troublesome nature. We got through it.
Lisa didn’t set out to hurt me or damage our things. She was curious, spirited, and sensitive. We knew her well and knew her motivations. This allowed my husband and me to continue to love her while we tried to teach her about limits, self control, and empathy.
As we raised this child we learned about forgiveness. I had to forgive Lisa for biting me (while I taught her better ways to channel her frustration). I had to forgive her for breaking a vase my dad had made for me; it was irreplaceable. And there were numerous times I had to ask Lisa for forgiveness when I lost my patience with her and responded too harshly to her curiosity, her intensity, and her high energy level.
Forgiveness is a gift we share with those we care about. It’s not an easy gift to give. But it’s a gift that is essential for long-lasting and high-quality relationships. When we forgive someone we give them a fresh start, we help them understand that it’s OK that they aren’t perfect (none of us is perfect), and most importantly, we help them re-connect with their inner goodness. Wonderful things happen when people are connected to their inner goodness.
Teach your children about forgiveness. Model it to them and ask them to forgive you when you don’t quite measure up. It’s a gift worth giving and a gift worth receiving.
Along the way you just might inspire goodness. What a happy outcome that will be!