A family friend who had watched us raise our children over the years once asked my son, “What did your parents do right in raising you?” We had met up with them in Thailand in 2002 and had not seen them for a few years. She was raising her own set of children, a few years younger than my set. Our son, at the time was a teenager. He, after going through some rough faith testing waters, had a radiant faith and was involved in leadership at his International School in Central Asia. Our friend had known him mostly as a young boy growing up in NW China. His answer was a bit humbling but not completely surprising to me. “They asked me to forgive them many times.”
As I look back over the years of our parenting I have to agree with my son. I believe our parenting took a steep growth spike when we learned to face our own brokenness and pain. We learned to forgive our own parents for their shortcomings, and then ask our children to forgive us when we hurt them.
There was the time when we left them for too long with our youngest son’s first grade teacher. We needed to go to Thailand to sort out some messy team problems. We stayed an extra week to get some R&R afterwards. These were in the days when there was only one flight a week in and out of Central Asia to Thailand. Our dear friend, who volunteered willing to take care of our kids, probably didn’t realize how much work mentally and physically it took to look after 3 lively school age children. (She will always be our hero!) Our kids missed us, we missed them, it was too long and they let us know. I was angry with myself as well because in my heart I knew it would be too long when we booked our tickets, but I wasn’t vocal enough with my husband at the time. I hadn’t learned to trust my instincts enough. We asked them to forgive us (more than once!) and made a promise to take them back to Thailand some day. We were able to fulfill that promise a few years later.
In the day in and day out of raising children there are numerous times when we are stretched in our patience and self-control, we speak harshly, or spank them in anger (if we spank), ignore them when they are talking to us, or at least don’t give them our full attention. I have had to ask forgiveness when I’ve told a story I thought was funny about them that was actually embarrassing to them. We have asked them to forgive us for the effects of our anger, depression, impulsive decision-making, and contention between us at times. The list goes on and on.
This is a beautiful humbling aspect to parenting if we but embrace it. This is who we are – imperfect human beings yet hopefully growing and learning from our many mistakes. Thank God for His grace and love that covers a multitude of sin. Thank God for children who long to keep a bond with their parents. Thank God for the gift of forgiveness.