Sunday, September 2, 2012

Falling Down

Most kids probably don't see their parents fall down. Maybe slip on some ice or trip awkwardly over toys in the kitchen. But not fall flat on their faces like they're just learning to walk.

My kids have seen Al do it twice. Both times they have witnessed it first-hand while I was in a different part of the house. I heard yelling. “Daddy fell!” and then, “Daddy, are you all right?” My heart quickened as I ran to the scene, wondering if I'd find blood or broken bones. He was all right both times, but for certain, he was at least a little embarrassed. I wonder what the kids think. Does it seem odd or scary to them? Or is it just another part of this weird stroke that has robbed Dad of something ambiguous, some part of what he once was?

Before Al even came home from the hospital, a friend who has MS told me something. She began with, “When Al falls. . . .” I don't remember what she said after that, just that she emphasized the “when” rather than saying “if”. Before he was released from the hospital, I made certain to ask his physical therapist how to help him if he fell. I'm so glad that I did. I've helped him numerous times after doing floor exercises, after a stumble here or there, etc. But the 2 times that he actually fell flat on his face, he managed to get up with the least amount of help from me. Maybe after falling like that, he felt he had to regain some dignity by getting himself upright again.

It's OK for our kids to see us fall. In fact, I think it's important for our kids to see us fall. Not physically, but spiritually. It's important for them to know that we sin, and that we make mistakes. Now I'm not saying we should all run out and pull a “grand theft auto” just to make sure our kids get the point. I'm pretty sure that would be counter-productive. And it's not that we should confess every sin to them – that would be a bit overwhelming for them, wouldn't you say? It's just that we want them to know that sin is inevitable in this “body of death,” and that Jesus is the one who rescues us from it. (Romans 7:21-25)

I happen to have kids who are quite perfectionistic, and it's hard on them when they make mistakes, especially when they're called on it. It's difficult, humbling, even embarrassing to have to admit you did something wrong. It's hard to say, “I'm sorry.” But the sooner they learn it, the better.

And in our house, we make the offender say, “I'm sorry”, and the offendee has to say, “I forgive you.” They can't say, “It's OK”. Because it's not OK that your brother whacked you with his plastic lightsaber. It's not OK that your sister stabbed you with her earring. That's why we apologize – what we did was WRONG. So it's always, “I forgive you.” In our understanding, in our family, that means, the slate is wiped clean. I'm choosing to forget that you hurt me. Our relationship is restored.

I think it's most difficult for the kids to say to us as parents, “I forgive you” because saying those words would mean they're admitting that we did something wrong and need forgiveness. It might be scary or unsettling for any kid to admit that their parents did something wrong, and saying it to their parents' faces. But again, it restores the relationship. It tells our children, “I'm learning as I grow. I will make mistakes as a parent. But I will try again, by the grace of God, to be the kind of parent God intended me to be.”

The only perfect parent they have is Our Father in Heaven. And He, in His wisdom, gave us to our kids as their earthly parents, even when He knew we would fall sometimes.