Lindsay is our first child–our parenting ‘experiment’. Only, as a preschooler, she provided an invalid hypothesis: She made parenting seem easy. If we used a stern voice, she would drop her head and comply. If we gave her one warning, and the problem dissolved.
This, incidentally, caused us to be overconfident, arrogant parents who wondered why everyone didn’t have perfectly delightful yiddle kids, like Lindsay. (We started talking like her, she was so darn cute.)
Not to fear, though. The boys eventually knocked us down to size.
But back in the fantasy days, we expected Lindsay to be pleasant, helpful, cheerful, and obedient all of the time. I think if our pastor had come to us and said, “Now, you do know that your sweet little Lindsay has a sin nature, don’t you?”, we would have nodded in agreement, but secretly wondered if it was really true.
She was just so good! We thought she was perfect. And that’s why it was such a shock when she proved us wrong.
I’ll never forget the day my friend Angela was over. She and I were talking in the kitchen as I prepared the kids’ lunch, when suddenly, baby Cole yelped from his high chair. I swiveled around and saw Cole’s little car in Lindsay’s hand. I said (probably a bit too incredulously), “Lindsay? You didn’t take that from Cole did you?”
She innocently shook her head no, but Angela shook her head yes. She had seen it happen.
I honestly was tempted to believe my two-year-old instead of my adult friend, but reason prevailed. I had to face the fact that my daughter had not only take her brother’s toy, but she had just lied to me about doing so!
Oh, the sting! I’m sure my face registered pure shock. I was crestfallen!
Now, freeze that frame, and fast forward to present day. Our kids are now 15, 13, and 9, and I want to do some Monday morning quarterback-ing. Back when my daughter was a toddler, was it really helpful to her for me to expect her to be perfect? When I assumed that she hadn’t sinned, or wouldn’t sin, did I help her not to sin? Or did I force her sin underground? When my face registered incredulous shock over her revealed sin, did I invite her to repentance? Or did I fill her with added shame?
Whether our kids are three or thirteen, it’s not good parenting to presume that our kids are above failing. A wise parent assumes that her child will take the toy. And that she will lie about it. A wise parent is not shocked or surprised by sin, but rather anticipates and expects it.
How do I know this? Because this is how God parents me. He is not shocked by my sin. He does not create a barrier of shame. He doesn’t push me away with his disillusioned dismay over my failure to measure up. Rather, he invites me to him. He says, “Repent and come live with me in my kingdom!”