Yesterday I probably scarred my daughter for life.
I’ve already talked about how powerless I am about the messages my kids will actually hear and believe and remember from their childhood.
Will they remember big epic events and trips, or will they remember mundane things that I don’t even realize are important? Will they remember my voice as I read or sang to them, or will they remember the way I sounded those many, many times I lost my temper and yelled? Will they remember that I was always there when they got sick, or will they remember the one time I wasn’t? Will they remember the times I tried to cook something new, or will they remember me making spaghetti and chicken nuggets all the time?
I’m thinking about yesterday, and my (almost) 4-year-old daughter, and wondering what she will remember about it (if anything at all).
My oldest son woke up on his own, a good 45 minutes before I needed to wake him up for school. When 7:00 finally rolled around, I woke up his brother and left my daughter asleep in bed. Or so I thought. I got the boys their breakfast and was greeted by a tearful girl a few minutes later. She wasn’t just sleepy and cranky and crying a bit, she was extremely upset. I scooped her up and asked her what was wrong. Between sobs, she replied, “You left me in the bed.” Then she collapsed in a wail. I apologized to her. I tried to explain to her that I didn’t realize she was awake, and was only trying to give her another 10 minutes to sleep. I looked in her eyes and told her I didn’t mean to leave her. I asked her to forgive me. She said she did.
But she kept talking about it. She was still sniffling as we drove her brothers to school. As we pulled into the school parking lot, she told me she was feeling better, and that she wasn’t sad anymore. I told her I was thankful for that. I think she was showing me some grace because she knew her brother was about to put me through another 20 minutes of hell as I tried to leave him at school for the day. (Which is exactly what happened- again- but that is a post for another day.) She brought it up again when we got to the grocery store. “Mom, I was so sad when you left me.” By this point, I was an emotional wreck. It had been a really, really rough drop-off with Sam. I called my husband and he informed me that someone in North Carolina had been buying gas with our card, so he had to go to the bank to sort that out. So when my daughter made it clear that she was still upset with me about “abandoning” her, and that she hadn’t actually forgiven me, I told her to stop. I told her that forgiveness means we don’t keep talking about it. Forgiveness means we don’t hold it against the person anymore.
She stopped talking about it. But I don’t think she’s forgotten it. And I don’t know if she will. And I don’t know how this day will look to her 20 years from now.
But I take comfort in this- I trust that she will remember that I apologized. I trust that she will recall how I looked into her eyes and asked her to forgive me. I trust that she will remember that I didn’t just say, “I didn’t leave you. I didn’t forget you. I was coming back. Get over it.” I trust that she will remember that I acknowledged how she felt, that I was sad that she was scared, and that I was sorry that I made her feel that way. Even though that wasn’t my intention at all, I had to acknowledge that it felt true to her.
I trust and am hopeful that all of my children will at least remember this- that their mom practiced what she preached when it came to apologizing. That I looked them in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry for _____________. Will you please forgive me? I love you,” just like I make them do with each other.
I believe they will, because I have to do it every single day, as I hurt them both intentionally and completely unintentionally.
I hope they remember grace upon grace upon grace.