How Parenting and Forgiveness Work Together

Forgiveness is about my heart, while parenting is about shaping the heart of my daughter.

Posted in , Apr 5, 2017

How forgiveness and parenting work together.

My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, as it usually does. I glanced at the calendar on the fridge (one doctor’s appointment, one meeting) as I made coffee, and then remembered with a groan that I was going to have to figure out what to do about my teen’s breakfast as well.

My 15-year old has great difficulty getting up and started for school. She’s a teen, after all, but she is also clinically depressed and has a severe anxiety disorder. In theory, she can make her own meal to start the day. However, helping her get going in the morning is both practical and a small kindness that starts the day on a positive note. 

Unfortunately, on Sunday afternoon she’d seriously ticked me off. When I’d told her for the third time to do something she snarled, “I don’t have to! It’s not required–it’s just what you want me to do!”

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I felt as if she'd slapped me. Biting back the worst of what came to mind, I retorted, “If you want to play do-only-what’s-required, two can play that game!” Then I stalked away, to keep myself from imposing a punishment that had more to do with my anger than with her offense.

Normally when I get mad, it passes relatively quickly. Normally when my daughter is rude, she apologizes. We could have moved on had either of those things happened, but neither did. Her sense of entitlement really rankled me, and then she unexpectedly went to bed very early, so the situation was left unresolved.

Now, fueled by only my first prayer and a sole cup of coffee, I had to figure out how to parent my child without acting childish, myself. Was it petty not to make her breakfast? Or was it a practical lesson in consequences? What does forgiveness look like? What is good parenting? Where do justice and mercy and getting-the-day-going meet?

It was far too early in the day for this. I settled on a halfway measure, putting some melon and a knife and yogurt and a spoon on the counter, making breakfast available without preparing it. Then I sent my husband to begin the arduous process of waking our teenager.

I sat down and took a welcome sip of coffee. I reminded myself that forgiveness is about my heart, while parenting is about shaping the heart of my daughter. As usual, first things need to come first. With a sigh, I wrestled with my hardness of heart. I heard my teenager grappling with the cantaloupe in the kitchen. It seemed that we were both back on track.

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