It was late afternoon. I drove down the two-lane road near our house, my toddler in the back seat, going home from the grocery store. A car pulled out behind me and proceeded to follow so closely I couldn’t see his headlights. I glanced down at my speedometer. I was going the speed limit. Determined not to speed up I spouted out, “Idiot!”
And there it was – my anger thrown throughout the car for my toddler to hear.
“Pay-she, Mommy. Pay-she,” she said to me, which is her dialect for “patience.”
“You’re right, sweetie, Mommy needs to show patience. Thank you for reminding me,” I responded to her. My two-year-old was suddenly wise enough to diffuse a situation with the fruit of the Spirit – something I’ve been teaching her.
That seemed to be the first instance where my words were no longer oblivious to my daughter. Days later my husband and I stood in the kitchen. First the tones of our voices deepened. Then the volume heightened. I turned around to our toddler standing in the doorway. “Uh-oh, uh-oh,” she repeated.
“Uh-oh” was right. I sighed feeling defeated and ashamed. My little girl had seen the worst of her mommy, and my façade of perfection that once reflected in her eyes was gone. She now knew the real me.
At first I was tempted to just say, “It’s okay, everything’s okay,” and leave it at that. But the Holy Spirit prompted me to not retreat behind denial but intersect my brokenness with His grace right then and there.
I scooped her, put her on my lap facing me, and said, “Mommy is broken. And I need Jesus.”
Fear invaded my mind as I said these words. Suddenly I became human to a person that has only seen me as super-human during her short life. What if she no longer looks up to me? What if she doesn’t trust me or respect me? What if she becomes like me? One of the joys of mothering small children is the way mothers are their world. My pride wanted to keep it that way.
Sometimes as moms we fear our children realizing we’re not perfect. As a safe place of control, we run back to perfectionism, vowing to read more books, pray more, and discipline our behaviors. We tell ourselves, “I’ll never do that again” or “I’ll get it right next time.” Of course there is a place for prayerful introspection and allowing the Holy Spirit to change our behavior. However, the motivation can’t be fear that our children will think less of us. Our motivation must be to show our children a grace-filled God who makes broken people whole.
One day, when my toddler is older, I will have the choice to reveal some shameful parts of my past. Poor decisions I made, times I didn’t trust God, and the scars that are still evident. There is the temptation for me to lie by omission or skew the truth. There’s also the temptation to push my past so far out of my mind that I simply forget. But doing this will prevent any good from coming from those beat-up times in my life.
Where we think our sin will draw our children farther away from us, they are the experiences that God uses to show His grace in our lives. There is grace in that teachable moment that maybe your child will learn through your story without making it her own. When your child does mess-up - because as much as I want to pretend that she won’t, I know she will – she will know that the same grace is available to her.
Our children do not want our perfection. Perfection is too high of a standard for them to look up to. They feel defeated when the example is perfection. The only standard our children should live up to is God’s standard, and that is grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
Whether it's my impatience in the car, my sharp words with my husband, or my sigh every time there's another mess to clean up, my daughter’s quickly learning that her mommy isn't perfect. But I’m beginning to view each mess-up as an opportunity to point her to Jesus instead of wallow in thoughts that I’m ruining her forever. As good as being her everything – her Jesus – sometimes feels, I can’t sustain it. I can’t be Jesus to her. But I can point her to the One who is full of truth and grace.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.