Let's just say that Avery can be a monkey.
He has many endearing qualities, and of all my kids, he is definitely the most snuggliest, but his impulsiveness and his yearning to make others laugh often get him into trouble. And when he gets into trouble, he gets embarrassed. Really embarrassed. So embarrassed that it overshadows any feelings of remorse he may have lodged in his heart and replaces it with what comes off as a callused indifference. It drives me crazy, and it worries me!
The other day, after I had just spent a lovely two hours all by my lonesome,while the boys and Mr. Level-Headed were at a soccer game, Avery ran into the house, gave me one of his I-really-did-it-this-time smirks and made a beeline to his bedroom. When Mr.Level-Headed came in shortly afterwards, I immediately asked him what was up. Well . . . and then he went into a long expose of how our darling boy, along with three of his girl friends, was throwing rocks at cars in the parking lot AND that it was one of the owners of the cars who had brought this to his attention.
oh . . .
Mr. Level-Headed, who is typically very, well, level-headed, was furious. As far as he could tell there was no damage done to any of the cars, which was good news, but it also left us without a real-world consequence for his actions. How were we going to punish this boy for what he had done? Isn't that our job as parents?
What are we going to do, Krista? You know he was the ringleader in all of this, and so not only did he make a poor choice for himself, but he also dragged his friends into it. The three girls were so upset when we confronted them about this, but HE just stood there with a smug look on his face. What are we going to do?
I don't know.
Typically, I would fly off the handle at this point and whip out some arbitrary punishment that is impossible to follow through with, but not this day. It must have been the quiet two hours I had spent by myself prior to their return, but I was calm and I was level-headed. This was so unlike me.
Derrick, (because I don't usually call him Mr. Level-Headed to his face and especially not when he is upset), we need to figure out what we are going to say to him. We can't just punish him for the sake of punishing him, even though I could really use someone to clean up the toy room right now. Do you know whose car he hit? If so, we could get him to make a face-to-face apology to them.
I don't know them, and everyone was gone by the time I spoke with him and packed up after the game.
I don't know what we are going to do.
Finally, we gave up trying to think about what was a suitable punishment and went into the room to talk with him. I pulled him up on my lap, and we discussed why throwing rocks and encouraging your friends to do so as well was a really poor choice to make. Then we told him he had to stay in his room until supper was ready, and we left.
We felt like failures. We felt like the world's worst parents. We felt like we had let him down, and that if he grew up to become a sadistic serial killer, then it would be all our fault.
Eventually, he was let out of his room, and life went on.
The next morning the boys and I were working on math. Avery finished up early and so I sent him downstairs to play, while Elliot finished up. About ten minutes later, Avery quietly crept up the stairs and curled himself up onto my lap. I hate to admit it, but my first thought was: Oh no! What did he do now?
What's up, Bud?
I can't say. Not with Elliot here.
Elliot, who is always up for any excuse to get out of work, ran off to his room with no questions asked.
So, what's up?
I feel yucky. I can't even play.
Are you sick?
No, I feel bad about what I did yesterday, and I can't stop thinking about it.
And then he started to cry.
I was flabbergasted. My little boy was feeling remorse.
I held him closely, and we talked about ways to help him feel better. Unfortunately, he could not apologise to the owners of the cars, but I knew someone he could apologise to. When I asked Avery if he knew who I was talking about, he answered in a tiny voice: "Yes, Jesus". Then we talked about the Atonement and Grace and how we can apply these principles in our life. We talked about how Jesus suffered in Gethsemane not only so we could be cleansed from our sins and return to Heavenly Father unspotted from the world, but more importantly, so we can forgive ourselves, and that while we are here on earth, we don't have to be burdened by guilt for the mistakes we make. We can start each day anew with a clean slate and with a desire to do just a little bit better than yesterday. Yikes! Aren't you glad I am not your mom . . . tee hee!
As a Christian mom, this was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever spent with any of my children. Avery wiped away his tears, gave me a kiss and told me he needed to pray. My heart leapt for joy. It doesn't matter how many times you hear about gospel doctrines, like the
Atonement, in Sunday school or during a talk in church because it does not mean anything until you actually have to apply it in your life, and that's exactly what my little boy was about to do.
He went into my bedroom and offered up what I can only imagine to be one of the sweetest and most sincere prayers he has ever said. Then, he came out and walked downstairs. To my delight, I heard the sounds of guns going off and the feigned cries of soldiers dying in agony. I knew at that very moment that not only was my boy forgiven, but he forgave himself, and that no matter what obstacles he is faced with or what mistakes he makes in his life, he is going to be okay. In fact, better than okay; this kid is going to do amazing things because he does not have to do it alone, and he knows it.
Click here to read one of my favourite talks on the Atonement. It just makes sense. :)